Crusaders seal Northern Rail Bowl

By Ryan Gould at The Shay Stadium

North Wales Crusaders will be the first team to have their name on the Northern Rail Bowl as they beat London Skolars 42-24 at The Shay Stadium, Halifax.

The pressure was firmly on Crusaders as favourites ahead of the game, and although the physical Skolars made life very difficult for the Wrexham-based side, they showed just why they were given that tag with a dominant final 20 minutes which, ultimately, sealed the silverware.

Crusaders opened the scoring when, after Andy Moulsdale had come within inches of the line, Johnson was sent through a gap in the Skolars defence by Dave McConnell.

The Londoners replied soon after, though, as Mike Worrincy flung out a looping pass to Erjon Dollapi to cross next to the posts.

But a gamble from Christiaan Roets, touching down an Andy Moulsdale grubber kick which Skolars thought was rolling dead, put Crusaders back in the ascendancy.

North Wales threw on the talismanic Jono Smith and the loose forward had an immediate impact in Crusaders’ third score; Smith hit the line and popped the ball out to Andy Moulsdale to touch down.

However, two tries in as many minutes brought the Londoners back into the game as the sides left for the break at 16-16.

Dylan Skee sent Louis Robinson crashing over next to the posts, although confirmation was required from the video referee, before a swift move down the left flank saw Ade Adebisi ground in the corner.

With the tie on a knife edge, Dylan Skee elected to kick for goal after Crusaders were penalised for dissent – and the scrum-half was successful as Skolars went two points ahead.

That decision to take the two rather than run the ball may have been Skolars’ downfall, with Gary Middlehurst bouncing off several would-be tacklers to touch down just minutes later.

And with that try, as well as London having a try attempt chalked off when Purslow was held up in-goal, Crusaders had momentum on their side.

Dave McConnell scooted over from acting half for Crusaders’ fifth, before Rob Massam continued his impressive scoring tally for the season as he touched down in the corner.

McConnell went over for his second after a Stephen Bannister break, and although Skolars hit back temporarily through Sam Wellings, Jono Smith sent Dan Birkett over on the hooter to put the finishing touches on a remarkable victory for Crusaders.

1 James Anthony
4 John Paxton
29 Alex Hurst
3 Joe Price
5 Ade Adebisi
26 Andy McLean
7 Dylan Skee
31 Erjon Dollapi
33 Michael Bishay
10 David Williams
12 Mike Worrincy
27 Sam Wellings
13 Olly Purslow
9 Martyn Smith
8 Rob Thomas
16 Louis Robinson
32 Jamaine Wray

Tries: Dollapi, Robinson, Worrincy, Wellings
Goals: Skee (4/5)

1 Tommy Johnson
32 Dan Birkett
17 Stuart Reardon
3 Christiaan Roets
5 Rob Massam
6 Andy Moulsdale
33 Jamie Dallimore
21 Simon Stephens
14 Dave McConnell
8 Jonny Walker
29 Steve Bannister
12 Gary Middlehurst
11 Andy Gorski
13 Jono Smith
9 Lee Hudson
16 Ryan MacDonald
30 Owain Brown

Tries: Johnson, Roets, Moulsdale, Middlehurst, McConnell (2), Massam, Birkett
Goals: Johnson (5/8)

Referee: Joe Cobb
HT: 16-16
Attendance: 4,179
MOTM: Jono Smith – his introduction gave Crusaders an immediate lift and his involvement in several tries was crucial.

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