Crusaders come close to springing a surprise


Tom Norris

A bonus point was the least the home side deserved from a gruelling 80 minutes.

Workington showed their class to leave Wrexham with a victory, but Clive Griffiths can once again be pleased with large parts of his side's performance.

Given that Crusaders were on the wrong end of a 58-0 whitewash in the reverse fixture the clash represents a huge improvement.

Tries from Rob Massam, Kriss Wilkes, Danny Hulme and Dave McConnell made sure that Crusaders would not end another promising display empty handed.

There is work to be done, and at times the hosts looked surprisingly flat, but Workington are not challenging for the title by accident.

It was Workington who made the break through following a handling error from Crusaders, Mark Calderwood running across the face of the home line before the ball went through the hands of Graeme Mattinson and he found Kris Coward who crossed the whitewash.

Carl Forber made sure of the extra two points from close range.

Rather than let their heads drop, Crusaders took the game by the scruff of the neck.

A high tackle on Simon Stephens allowed Crusaders the ball close to the Workington line and after Jono Smith had been held up the ball was worked out wide for Wilkes to burrow over.

Tommy Johnson was handed a tough conversion but drew the home side level with a fine kick.

Things were to get even better for the hosts as Jamie Durbin fed Massam and after the centre mesmerised two Workington players with a jinking run, he dived over in the corner.

Johnson saw his kick drift wide with the wind playing a significant part, and it proved costly as Workington regained the lead four minutes later.

Ex-Crusaders' prop Jamie Thackray was the try scorer following some patient build-up, Forber adding the extras.

Unfortunately, the home side let themselves down with the opening period drawing to a close, Workington creating an overlap on the left-hand side and Peter Lupton, another former Crusader, fed James Newton to score.

Forber let Crusaders off the hook with a second missed conversion, but head coach Griffiths was left unimpressed by his team's end to the first 40 minutes.

Griffiths will have been encouraged by what he saw during the opening quarter of the second-half, although some poor defending let Workington in for a fourth try.

Brett Carter was the man to profit as he went in under the posts, leaving Forber with a simple conversion, and the half-back added another two points moments later as Christiaan Roets was harshly adjudged to have ripped the ball from Phillips' grasp.

Workington were starting to play like a team that had already wrapped up the points and an impressively worked move allowed Dave Peterson to wriggle clear and cross the whitewash.

Forber continued his fine kicking form with the extras, before Crusaders hit back with a converted score of their own.

The returning Danny Hulme received a short pass from captain Andy Moulsdale, shrugged off two tackles with ease and dived over to give Crusaders hope.

Johnson moved Crusaders to within two points of a potential bonus point, something which almost became a reality as Durbin broke the Workington line, but his offload found a white shirt rather than a supporting team mate.

That near miss was soon forgotten as recent signing Dave McConnell was on the end of a free-flowing move to bring Crusaders to within 10-points, Johnson narrowly missing the conversion.

There were only 90 seconds remaining after Johnson's miss and neither side could make another impression on the scoreboard.

Crusaders: Johnson, Wilkes, Brennan, Roets, Massam, Moulsdale, Durbin, Walker, Hudson, Stephens, Adamson, Gorski, Smith. Replacements: Clarke, O Brown, Hulme, McConnell.

Workington Town: Carter, Miller, Mossop, Dawes, Calderwood, Lupton, Forber, Macdonald, Mattinson, Coward, Phillips, Whitehead, Peterson. Replacements: Newton, Shackley, Robinson, Thackray.

Referee: Ron Laughton.

Attendance: 733

Man of the match: Andy Gorski - Has made a big impact since joining the Welsh club and produced another all-action performance.

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