Ryan Gould at Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium
Twelve man North Wales Crusaders saw off Welsh rivals South Wales Scorpions to clinch the Championship One title infront of a record home crowd.
1,562 were treated to an enthralling Welsh derby – and deservedly so, as after all it is the fans that have been instrumental in the growth of Crusaders following the demise of the old Super League club.
It was looking rocky for Crusaders after Jamie Dallimore was sent off for a spear tackle on Shae Lyon Fraser, but the Wrexham-based played with all their heart to grind out their best victory of the season yet.
It didn’t take long for Crusaders to open the scoring in the big Welsh derby, with Leon Brennan breaking the line down the left edge and finishing in the corner.
But Joe Burke soon replied for Scorpions as he managed to squeeze his way over next to the posts despite the attention of four Crusaders defenders.
Scorpions were on the upper hand and continued to press the Crusaders defence, and as they were making an assault on the right corner, Dallimore spear tackled Lyon Fraser and was sent of.
The visitors began to make the most of the one man advantage; Billy Sheen put a high kick to the corner and Dalton Grant leaped above Dan Birkett to collect and finish in the corner.
However, North Wales put the game back in their own hands with two tries in quick succession. Middlehurst slipped a short ball to Massam to cross in the corner and then Bannister broke the line to touch down on the right side.
Whatever head coach Clive Griffiths said to his troupes at half-time, it had the desired effect. His side came racing out of the blocks and Middlehurst sent over Rob Massam for his second in the corner.
The South Walians hit back once again, though, as former Crusaders scrum half Billy Sheen darted through a gaping hole to finish underneath the sticks.
It was only fitting that captain Andy Moulsdale, who has been a fantastic leader throughout the two seasons, got on the scoresheet as his side won the league. The stand-off showed great strength to bounce off two tackles as he hit the line.
But Scorpions replied yet another time, this time on the back of a Crusaders error. Bannister dropped the ball with the line beckoning and Dalton Grant collected to race the length of the field and score.
It was a tense closing period for Crusaders but, once again, their quality showed through as it has done all season.
Owain Griffiths darted over from close range, Andy Moulsdale slotted over a drop-goal from 30 metres and then McConnell drew the curtain on his career with a break away try under the posts on the hooter.
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS
Tries: Brennan (2), Massam (35, 43), Bannister (38), Moulsdale (52), Griffiths (68), McConnell (79)
Goals: Johnson 3/7
Sent Off: Jamie Dallimore (21/Spear tackle)
SOUTH WALES SCORPIONS
3.Shae Lyon Fraser
10.Tom Gwyn Morgan
11.T J Colin
Tries: Burke (13), Grant (25, 64), Sheen (48)
Goals: Davies 2/3, Wilcox 1/1
On Report: Phillips (31/Late charge on kicker)
Referee: Peter Brooke
MOTM: Dave McConnell – the hooker finished his career in fine style with a try and all-round instrumental performance.