NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray described his side’s 34-18 victory at Coventry Bears as the ‘ideal birthday present’.

An impressive away performance saw the Wrexham-based Cru end a two-game losing streak and overtake the Bears in the League One standings.

Tries from Dave Ecclestone, Kenny Baker, Rob Massam (2), Warren Thomposn and Karl Ashall handed the visitors a deserved win.

And Murray, who turned 42 on Monday, was left delighted with his team’s display, which yielded a ‘crucial’ two points in the clash at Butts Park Arena.

Reflecting on the game, he said: “It was the ideal birthday present as far as I was concerned.

“I’d spoken with the players beforehand about this being a must-win for us and they’ve delivered with an excellent team performance.

“This was a four-pointer for both teams and we knew we couldn’t allow Coventry to open up a bigger lead on us in the table than they already had.

"So all credit to the lads. They stuck to their task really well and took on board the importance of the win down there.”

Having led for the majority of their league fixtures this season, too often the Cru have contrived to surrender advantages late in games.

Murray admitted he feared the worst on Sunday when he saw his team’s 10-point winning margin cut to four on the hour mark.

But he was heartened by the improvements in both discipline and game management after Crusaders ran in two tries in the final five minutes to put the result beyond doubt.

“Too many times this season we’ve had glossy losses, where we’ve played well enough to win games but come away with nothing to show for our efforts.

“When Coventry started clawing it back in the second half it seemed as though we were slipping back into our old ways and I thought ‘here we go again’.

“But after sending a message down to the players to close the game off, they did well to snuff out any fightback and take control of the game again.

“Coventry are a good side and have made their home ground a bit of a fortress after beating Newcastle and Workington there. So overall we have to be delighted to have won by a decent scoreline."

Murray believes that hard work on the training ground is beginning to pay dividends and that his players are now taking greater personal responsibility on the field.

"After the Whitehaven defeat we went through the game with a fine-toothed comb and isolated a lot of elements we weren't happy with", he added.

"We challenged the players to take responsibility for everything they could control themselves.

"I think now we're more aware of how small things like the penalties we concede as well as the knock-ons, handling errors and forward passes we've been guilty of have had such a negative effect on our results so far.

"It's about staying in control and being disciplined when you're on top in games and hopefully we'll keep improving in these areas now."