North Wales Crusaders 10-17 Whitehaven


Tom Norris

The result left a bitter taste in the mouth.

Much like the opening day defeat to Barrow Raiders, Crusaders matched a more experienced travelling side and should have found themselves on the right side of the scoreline.

Full of effort and endeavour, Crusaders gave Whitehaven a run for their money despite missing a string of first team regulars.

Jono Smith, Christiaan Roets, Leon Brennan, Danny Hulme and Kriss Wilkes were amongst those sidelined, but Clive Griffiths' men produced a performance to be proud of.

At times it was far from pretty as Whitehaven resorted to ball up the jumper rugby, utilising their powerful props to good effect.

Crusaders tried to play a more expansive game and perhaps, at times, this was their undoing, offloads in the right areas but at the wrong time preventing them from scoring more points.

The game was slow to come to the boil with referee Matthew Kidd spoiling the opening 15 minutes of the encounter with over jealous whistle blowing.

Carl Rudd was on the receiving end of an Iwan Brown spear tackle as a physical match soon began to liven up, Kidd finally allowing the game to flow.

A piece of magic from Jamie Durbin nearly brought about the first score of the afternoon, his pass striking an offside Whitehaven knee after he bobbed and weaved through the visitors' line.

From the resulting penalty, Billy Sheen, on for captain Andy Moulsdale, raced through a gap and crossed the try line.

Ian Cross was handed the task of adding the extras, but his penalty struck an upright and bounced wide of the target.

Durbin was at centre of Crusaders next break, making plenty of headway before the move was extinguished.

From the resulting Whitehaven set the visiting side won a penalty and duly edged in front, Carl Sice carving through the Crusaders' line to dot down and Carl Rudd landing a tough kick.

Crusaders had the better of the early second half exchanges and rightly scored their second try of the day, Sheen going over once more.

Sam Broadbent took over kicking duties and landed the two points.

Whitehaven responded by dragging themselves level with a stylish score, Jesse Joe Parker and Max Wiper combined to play in Craig Calvert, who pinned his ears back and darted down the left wing.

Rudd missed the chance to restore the Whitehaven lead.

Whitehaven squandered an even better chance to cross the whitewash as Jamie Rooney knocked on with the a clear run to the line on offer, although the visiting side were next to score.

Lee Doran was the man to cross over, taking advantage of some poor defence to touch down before Rooney went some way to making amends for his earlier error by converting.

It was up to Crusaders to produce something special and Durbin came close to unlocking the Whitehaven defence, before the visiting side roared forward, and after a moment of indiscretion from the home side, Rudd was handed the chance to kick a potentially deciding penalty, fortunately for Crusaders his effort drifted wide.

Crusaders found themselves needing to conjure up two scores with five minutes remaining as Rooney made the most of a drop-goal attempt.

The Crusaders came close to troubling the scorers through Tommy Johnson, but Whitehaven held firm to take the points back to Cumbria.

North Wales Crusaders: Johnson 6, Clay 6, Cross 6, Broadbent 6, Massam 7, Moulsdale 6, Durbin 8, Walker 7, Hudson 7, I Brown 7, Clarke 8, Morrison 7, Stephens 7.
Replacements: Sheen 8, Lunt 6, O Brown 7, Tyrer 6.

Whitehaven: Bauer 6, Hamzat 6, Wiper 7, Parker 7, Calvert 7, Rooney 7, Karalius 6, Houghton 6, Gee 6, Cullnean 6, Crellin 7, Rudd 7.
Replacements: Sice 7, Varkulis 7, Hill 6, Haggerty 6.

Referee: Matthew Kidd.

Attendance: 804.

See full story in the Leader

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