A BATTLING second half display saw North Wales Crusaders fight back to claim a 38-18 victory at Hemel Stags.
Trailing by two points at half-time, the Wrexham side responded with four second half tries to sustain their push for a place in the League One shield final.
The result leaves Mike Grady's Crusaders one point behind league leaders Hunslet with just three phase two games remaining.
The visitors made a bright start against their Hertfordshire opponents with Dale Bloomfield collecting a ball out wide before crossing for a third minute try.
The reliable boot of Tommy Johnson added the extras and opened up a six-point lead for his side in the early stages.
Things got better five minutes later when a penalty took the Cru deep into Stags territory and prop Jonny Walker made good use of their positional advantage to run in a second try and stretch the lead to 10 points.
They were further ahead with 15 minutes played as the home defence were unable to deal with Ryan Smith’s high kick and Bloomfield capitalised to collect possession and cross to make it 16-0.
With Crusaders now well in the ascendancy, a sloppy period of play ensued with mistakes being made from both sides.
The Stags capitalised on uncertainty in the visitors’ defence to run in a 20th minute try from close range and reduce arrears.
On the cusp of half-time the hosts then ran in two converted tries in quick succession to take an 18-16 lead and stun the Wrexham side.
But Crusaders were not to be denied as a superb second half performance saw them amass 22 unanswered points to maintain their recent return to form.
Head coach Grady tweeted his pleasure at a hard earned victory on the road.
“Not the best performance but job done, credit to the boys for sticking in till the end and grinding it out. Thanks for support,” wrote Grady.
Elsewhere in the Shield, Oxford and South Wales Ironmen played out an absorbing 22-22 draw, which keeps the Ironmen rooted to the foot of the table.
Second-placed London Skolars claimed an emphatic 50-14 win at Coventry Bears, while leaders Hunslet triumphed 32-18 against visiting Gloucestershire All Golds.
Toronto Wolfpack continued their dominance of the Eights competition with a 50-0 demolition of Newcastle Thunder.
Barrow Raiders remain within two points of the summit after a 26-19 home win against York City Knights, while Whitehaven earned a 36-4 home victory against Keighley Cougars and Doncaster were edged out in a 22-21 defeat at Workington Town.
See full story in the Leader