MIKE GRADY has challenged his North Wales Crusaders side to lift the League One Shield after narrowly missing out on the play-offs.
Despite registering a 36-13 victory over Coventry Bears in Sunday’s final phase one game, the Cru finished ninth in the league standings because of their inferior points difference.
And having failed to make the Super Eights competition, Grady’s side will now face-off against the seven other bottom half sides for the shield.
But with points carried forward from the first phase, the Cru enter the competition at the top.
Grady said: “We’re on a good run at the moment and we want to take that momentum into the eights.
“We’re top of the tree and everyone will want to come to us, beat us and shoot us down. But it’s down to us to keep doing what we’re doing and keep racking those wins up.
“Without a doubt the shield is something we should be looking to win and I feel it’s well within our capabilities.
“If we keep winning then it’s definitely achievable and it’s something we’re targeting as a group.”
Crusaders recent resurgence in form came too late to cement a top-eight finish, with Workington Town and Keighley Cougars progressing at their expense.
All three clubs were effectively tied on 15 points in the league table, but heavy early season losses cost the Wrexham side dear.
A 50-8 defeat at Keighley in March was followed by a 44-8 reverse at home to Doncaster, which prompted Grady to address his side’s defensive frailties.
Aside from the 80-0 trouncing by Toronto, the Cru improved massively in later games with some impressive league victories.
Reflecting on his side’s performances to date, Grady conceded that they had been punished by their slow start to the campaign.
He said: “First half of the season has been eventful, but I’ve really enjoyed it.
”We’ve had a good run of late, but it started a bit slow and that was due to personnel changes getting different players in.
“But we’ve scored some fantastic tries this year and we can’t take that away from the lads.
”As well as our league run, we got to the League Cup final on the back of a really difficult cup run which was a great achievement.
”We do need to smarten up in certain areas of the field and that’s something we’ll continue to work on and look to improve.
“We’ll do that going forward and we’re looking forward to a week’s rest and then cracking on into the eights. We’ll re-group and can’t wait to get stuck into the second half of the season now.”
Crusaders strong placing in the League Shield table will see them play four home games, which come against Coventry Bears, Oxford, London Skolars and Hunslet.
Their three away games will be against South Wales Ironmen, Hemel Stags and Gloucestershire All Golds.
After the conclusion of the second phase, the first-placed team will host the runner-up in the League One Shield final.
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