Ryan Gould at The Rock
Clive Griffiths’ tenure as head coach of North Wales Crusaders ended with a vital 22-21 victory over in-form Whitehaven.
The former Wales coach’s change of roles, as he will now step into a rugby director role with the club, was announced on Saturday ahead of the game.
Crusaders and Haven’s form couldn’t have been different heading into the game; the Cumbrians had won five of their last six games, while Crusaders had lost their last two and hadn’t won at home since the first game of the season.
But the Wrexham side turned over the form book as they picked up a win which could make a lot of difference in their relegation battle.
Crusaders opened the scoring when Dan Birkett tracked a Jamie Dallimore kick, which caught Craig Calvert out, to touch down in the corner.
It didn’t take long for the home side to increase their lead in what was an excellent team try. Middlehurst did well to get the ball out of the tackle, leaving Hudson and Bannister to flick on the ball for prop Offerdahl to score in the corner.
Haven looked certain to respond after Calvert broke down the left flank and passed inside to Cain Southernwood, but Jono Smith was tracking back to flatten him as he went for the line.
However, following back-to-back penalties near the Crusaders line, the Cumbrian side did grab their first try of the afternoon, as Seymour took advantage of space on the right to send Chris Taylor over with a long-range pass.
The visitors piled on the pressure for the remainder of the half, but they were twice denied through great tackles by Dan Birkett and Jono Smith.
Crusaders started the second-half perfectly, with Jono Smith shrugging off a couple of tackles to touch down on the whitewash.
That was met with a swift response, though, as Jessie Joe Parker forced his way over the line after Seymour elected to run the ball on the last tackle.
And Haven took the lead for the first time in the game soon after, as Jessie Joe Parker broke the line down the left flank before switching the ball inside for Cain Southernwood to touch down.
Crusaders took the lead once again, however, when Tommy Johnson elected to kick the two points after Jamie Dallimore had been tackled late.
Then, Dallimore kicked a drop-goal – which was ruled out for obstruction in the build-up – for the Welsh side, before Seymour’s one-pointer for the visitors was given the nod by the referee.
The hosts had to throw everything at the game in order to get themselves back into it; they did.
Karl Ashall made a break as space opened up down the left flank and then offloaded to Middlehurst, who managed to cross in the corner despite Haven’s covering defence.
But the drama didn’t stop there, as Jessie Joe Parker touched down his second try in the corner after a number of errors by the Crusaders defenders.
The game rested solely on Tom Carr’s conversion; he missed it and Crusaders hung on for the three points.
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS
1 Tommy Johnson
2 Dan Birkett
29 Stephen Bannister
17 Stuart Reardon
5 Rob Massam
7 Jamie Dallimore
19 Karl Ashall
8 Jonny Walker
24 Lee Hudson
10 Mark Offerdahl
12 Gary Middlehurst
14 Stephen Wild
11 Toby Adamson
13 Jono Smith
30 Sebastien Martins
25 Owain Griffiths
3 Christiaan Roets
Tries: Birkett (14), Offerdahl (19), Smith (44), Middelhurst (77)
Goals: Johnson (3/5)
1 Tom Carr
2 Craig Calvert
3 Jessie Joe Parker
6 Chris Taylor
5 Shaun Ainscough
26 Brett Seymour
7 Cain Southernwood
30 Carl Forster
9 James Newton
8 Samir Taharoui
4 Scott McAvoy
12 Lee Mitchell
11 Lee Doran
14 Neil Thorman
27 Kurtis Quinn
22 James Robinson
13 Brad Crellin
Tries: Taylor (27), Joe Parker (49, 79), Southernwood (54)
Goals: Carr (2/4)
Referee: Chris Leatherbarrow
MOTM: Toby Adamson – solid performance and got through a lot of hard graft. Limited game time in the second-half and he could have done more damage if he played more minutes.
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