NORTH WALES CRUSADERS’ competitive season opened in defeat but they can take heart from the fact they failed to fold against higher league opposition.

League One Cru had home advantage over Championship outfit Swinton Lions and while it was the visitors who ran out 40-12 winners, Carl Foster’s hosts showed their battling qualities by playing for almost 50 minutes a man down.

Jono Smith (pictured below) was sent off after half-an-hour, while Lions soon stretched their advantage to 24 points.

However, they didn’t run away with the match and Cru had their moments in the second half.

There was a great atmosphere as the match got underway at Colwyn Bay’s Stadiwm CSM - Cru’s permanent base for this season after their nomadic campaign in 2023.

It was always going to be a tough task at home to their Championship opponents and Swinton Lions grabbed the lead after five minutes.

Josh Eaves crashed over for the score, which was duly converted by Declan Patton.

Swinton continued to put their hosts under pressure and they crossed the line on 14 minutes, but the ball was held up.

A minute later and the lead was extended with Dan Abram’s try and Patton added the extras.

Player-coach Carl Forster was sent to the sin bin for a trip and Swinton soon went further ahead.

George Roby dived over the whitewash and Patton made it three conversions from three.

He also added the extra to Matty Chrimes’ try on 33 minutes and that came a couple of minutes after Cru were reduced to 11 players with the dismissal of Smith.

Patton’s try and conversion stretched the lead a quarter-of-an-hour into the second half, while Crusaders hit back with a 66th minute try from the returning Pat Ah Van. Owain Abel added the extras.

Abram grabbed his second try five minutes from time, with Patten adding another conversion.

The final word belonged to Crusaders, though, with Ben Evans scoring his side’s second try and Abel converted.

Newcastle Thunder’s start the cup campaign didn’t go well as they were slaughtered 114-10 at home by York City Knights.

Yesterday, Doncaster eased to a 40-4 success at Midlands Hurricanes and Barrow Raiders won 30-8 at Workington Town.

Other results: Oldham 24 Halifax Panthers 20; Keighley 35 Dewsbury 6; Hunslet 12 Featherstone 62.

Challenge Cup results: Leigh Miners Rangers 18 Stanningley19; Clock Face Miners 4 Siddal 38; Doncaster Toll Bar 18 West Hull 40; Fryston Warriors 0 Hunslet 66; Hull Dockers 0 Wath Brow Hornets 38; Lock Lane 72 Edinburgh Eagles 0; Wests Warriors 28 Rochdale Mayfield 22; Hammersmith Hills Hoists 32 West Bowling 10; Orrell St. James 12 York Acorn 22; Royal Navy 24 Thatto Heath Crusaders 32.