NORTH WALES CRUSADERS booked their place in the League 1 Cup final with a 28-37 victory over Gloucestershire All Golds to set up a showdown with Barrow Raiders in Blackpool.
The Crusaders entered the game as underdogs against a Gloucestershire side who had enjoyed a number of impressive wins already this season, including knocking the Crusaders out of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
However, a clinical showing by the Wrexham based side saw them capitalise on errors made by the All Golds to take a 20 point lead into the half-time break. A lead which ultimately proved too big for the hosts to overturn.
The Crusaders had a chance to take the lead within the first five minutes of the game after Gloucestershire conceded a penalty. However, they couldn’t capitalise on their good position as Callum Mullkeen knocked on.
Moments later the hosts didn’t pass up on their chance to open the scoring as Steve Parry took the ball near the line and sent Brad Kislingbury over in the corner.
From the resulting kick-off the All Golds dropped the ball, gifting the visitors with a chance to level the score. They did so through Alex Davidson who was sent over from close range.
After a tightly contested period the Crusaders broke to take the lead with a fantastic effort from Danny Price. After Gloucestershire dropped the ball, Price kicked it forward on numerous occasions before gathering to score underneath the posts.
Minutes later the visitors extended their lead. Capitalising on another error from the All Golds, Luke Warburton found a gap in their defence to run through and score – extending the Crusaders’ lead to ten points.
The visitors then scored their fourth of the afternoon as Danny Price intercepted a pass out wide from the hosts and ran the length of the field to cross the whitewash beneath the posts.
With three minutes of the half remaining Gloucestershire responded through Mo Agro. After the ball had been knocked backwards and offloaded on several occasions, Parry collected it before sending Agro over to make it 10-24.
On the hooter the Crusaders extended their lead to 20 points as they went down the short side before Simon Atherton barged his way over to score, sending the teams into the break with the scores at 10-30.
As the second half got underway the home side conceded two penalties in quick succession, and they were made to pay by the Crusaders as Ryan Smith made a nice run through the All Golds’ defence before passing inside to Tommy Johnson who scored.
However, Gloucester responded quickly as Steve Parry darted over from close range to bring the scores to 16-36.
The home side then had a chance to further reduce the deficit however, they knocked-on and possession changed hands.
Another chance followed for the All Golds and they looked to be over in the corner. However, play was pulled back because they had stepped out of play in the process.
The home side’s pressure eventually paid off as Chris Barlow darted over in the corner, taking the scores to 20-36.
With 12 minutes remaining Barlow grabbed his second of the afternoon. A nice chip into the corner from the home side caught the Crusaders defence out and Barlow gathered the ball before grounding it.
The Crusaders then extended their lead by a point as Ryan Smith made use of a good position to slot a drop-goal over.
Gloucestershire reduced the visitors’ lead through Harry Kidd who ran through the Crusaders defence to score and make it 28-37.
However, the All Golds had left it too late to stage a come back sending the Crusaders into the final.
University Of Gloucestershire All Golds:
1 Jack Mitchell
2 Mo Agro
3 Phil Cowburn
4 Brad Kislingbury
5 Chris Barlow
7 Kieran Hyde
6 Josh Ward
8 Ollie Purslow
9 Steve Parry
10 Harry Kidd
11 Chris Worrall
12 Joe McClean
13 Billy Brickhill
14 Danny Fallon
15 Malakhi Lloyd-Jones
16 Graham O’Keefee
17 Harrison Elliott
Tries: Kislingbury (8), Agro (38), Parry (44), Barlow (61, 69), Kidd (78)
Goals: Hyde (2/6)
North Wales Crusaders:
1 Tommy Johnson
2 Corey Lee
28 Callum Mulkeen
16 Luke Warburton
19 Danny Price
26 Jack Hansen
7 Ryan Smith
8 Jonny Walker
9 Lee Hudson
10 Alex Davidson
3 Simon Atherton
24 Jack Houghton
14 James Dandy
27 Aaron Moore
13 Ryan Millington
6 Andy Moulsdale
00 Matt Davies
Tries: Davidson (11), Price (22, 31), Warburton (28), Atherton (39), Johnson (43)
Goals: Johnson (6/6)
Drop Goal: Smith (72)
Half-Time: All Golds 10-30 North Wales Crusaders
Man Of The Match: Danny Price – Two outstanding tries from Price helped his side to book their place in the final.