MIKE GRADY believes his North Wales Crusaders’ side are finding form at a critical time in their quest for the League One play-offs.
Sunday’s emphatic 52-20 away win at Oxford made it successive league victories for Grady’s men, who climbed to 10th in the table.
The victory came in spite of the team bus breaking down en route to the Iffley Road ground, which delayed kick-off by two hours.
Undeterred, the Cru turned in a commanding attacking display, running in 10 tries to sustain their push for a top-eight finish.
Head coach Grady said: “It wasn’t ideal preparation for a game, as you can imagine. We’d stopped at services somewhere near Birmingham for a good while, a few hours I think, and they were unable to get the bus going again.
“The company had to send a like-for-like replacement coach for us, which disrupted our preparations massively.
“But looking back it was probably a good test of our character. The lads get on really well and enjoy each other’s company so it’s something we can look back on and laugh at now.
“On the pitch they kept their focus and I thought we were excellent right from the start. We carried a big threat early on and we took our chances really well.
“We were well worth our 24-6 lead at half-time after a great performance from ourselves.
“We did let them back into the game a bit second half and conceded a couple of tries which were disappointing.
“But overall I thought it was one of our best performances of the season.
“We looked strong for most of the game, even in the 20 minute spell in the second half when were up against it we were pretty solid in defence too.”
Now level on points with play-off rivals Hunslet and Keighley Cougars, Grady believes that momentum is with his side as the first phase league split approaches.
The Cru are also reaping the benefits of several players returning from injury to bolster the matchday squad.
On-loan Warrington Wolves duo Taylor Prell and Alex Whalley have proved astute acquisitions, impressing with their contributions so far.
But in a tightly-contested division the Cru’s play-off chances hinge on results in their final two league games.
Second-placed Whitehaven come to the Queensway Stadium on Sunday, before an away trip to Coventry Bears a week later.
“The players we’ve had coming back into contention over the least few weeks have definitely helped” admitted Grady.
“Earlier this season, the 16 or 17 man squad we had going into games was more or less picking itself.
“Now, we’ve got a about 19 players to choose from going into games and there’s a lot of competition for places each week.
“I think we’re seeing all of the players stepping up a little bit in terms of performance, knowing that their place in the side isn’t guaranteed each week.
“We’re playing with confidence now, which hopefully will serve us well going into the next fortnight.
“Recent performances have been good and we’ve targeted wins in both of our remaining games to see if we can break into that top eight.
“So far we’ve looked strong, but we’ll see how things stand after the Whitehaven game, which will be one of our toughest challenges of the season so far.”