Jono recalls ‘toughest game ever’Date published: Wednesday, June 3, 2015
NORTH Wales forward Jono Smith has described his side’s last visit to Whitebank as the toughest game of his life.
Crusaders edged a thriller 18-16 in the semi-final of the iPro Sport Cup after Oldham led 10-6 at half-time.
Speaking ahead of the Welsh team’s return visit on Sunday (3pm) in League One, Smith said: “That semi-final was the most physical game I’ve ever played in.
“Whitebank is always a tough place to go, and Sunday will be no different, but the last time was a semi-final and the intensity was turned up a notch or two.
“We had to dig deep and somehow find a way to the line. We won with a real team effort in which every single player was committed to getting us through to the final at Blackpool.”
Smith added that Crusaders took a lot of confidence from inflicting a rare home defeat on Oldham with tries by Rob Massam, Ryan Duffy and Jamie Dallimore, all converted by Tommy Johnson against tries for Oldham by George Tyson and Danny Langtree and four goals by Lewis Palfrey — two of them penalties.
Crusaders went on to win the iPro Sport Cup by beating Swinton Lions in the final a fortnight ago, but last week they suffered a hangover and struggled to beat London Skolars 18-10 at home after trailing 10-8 at half-time.
It was their fifth win in a row, including the cup final, but coach Anthony Murray described it as an “ugly” victory, achieved on a set completion rate of only 63 per cent compared with London’s 84 per cent.
Like Oldham boss Scott Naylor after his side’s 32-24 loss at Keighley, Murray has called for a big improvement in performance at Whitebank, where Roughyeds will be defending an unbeaten record in league matches which stretches back to April, 2013.
Said Murray: “Our next two games are against Oldham and Rochdale so we’ve got a tough few weeks ahead of us.
“We’ve set some goals and if we achieve them we’ll be in the top four which is exactly where we want to be at this stage of the season.”
Oldham look certain to be without full-back Steven Nield, who damaged his left knee at Keighley in a first-half tackle.
He was assessed last night by club physio Patrick Hoyte, but the knee was still swollen so he will be examined again when it has settled down.
“It’s still sore and swollen, so I’ve got to settle for a waiting game,” said Nield. “It happened when I was carrying the ball on a clearing run. I tried to step a defender and the knee just buckled underneath me.
“I’m crossing my fingers now and hoping it’s not too serious.”