Date published: Monday, May 7, 2012

NORTH Wales Crusaders became the first side this season to win in the league at Whitebank when they produced the shock of the round to score seven tries to Roughyeds’ six and to return to Wrexham with the Welsh flag flying high.

In their previous game a fortnight ago they were trounced 58-0 at Workington so this very worthy win represented a massive swing in fortunes and one that, understandably, put a huge smile on the face of coach Clive Griffiths.

“It was a thriller in which the underdog prevailed,” summed up Griffiths. “I’m delighted, obviously, by the way in which we pulled things round after Workington.”

Roughyeds made changes after the cup defeat at St Helens, bringing back John Clough after suspension and Graham Holroyd, Paul Smith and Luke Stenchion after injury.

There was no room, therefore, for four youngsters who had played at the Langtree Stadium, namely David Cookson, Alex Thompson, Michael Ward and the dual-registered Matty Syron.

Crusaders were given first use of the slope and they made it count to lead 20-16 at the interval, scoring three of their four first=half tries in a 13-minute spell which had Roughyeds rocking.

Early tries by Shaun Robinson and John Clough gave the home side a 12-4 lead after quarter of an hour, but the Welshmen led 20-12 after their purple patch and it needed the first of Matthew Fogarty’s brace of touchdowns to reduce the arrears to four points at the interval.

Foggy was to go over again eight minutes into the second half, but not before Oldham-born Anthony Morrison had crashed over for Crusaders on a short ball from the lively Jamie Durbin to show that the visitors had no fears at playing up the slope.

Oldham were still in contention at 22-26 after the Foggy try, but Crusaders stretched their lead to 36-22 with tries by centre Ian Cross and winger Rob Massam — proof positive that Griffiths’s men had the pace and polish out wide to punish an Oldham defence that was well below its best.

Second-row pair Morrison and Jamie Clarke also had a big say in what went on when the ball went wide, but the decision to put Clarke in the sin-bin seven minutes from the end was the signal for Roughyeds to enjoy their best spell of the game.

David Ellison scored under the posts for Jamie Dallimore to convert and only two minutes later Holroyd sent in Miles Greenwood. This time Dally put his hurried conversion attempt wide of the near post, but there were still four minutes left and Roughyeds now needed only one more converted try to snatch all three league points.

A penalty put the home side into a strong attacking position and it looked as though Dallimore was going to be the match-winning hero when he got to the line only for superb goal-line defence by the Crusaders to force him to lose control of the ball as he went to touch down.

Crusaders thus survived the Roughyeds rally to emerge victorious on a day when the home side will be looking seriously at what went wrong.

Said coach Tony Benson: “A lot of our lads gave their all, but some fell short and in this competition everybody has to be firing all the time if you are going to win matches.

“We seemed to be chasing the game from start to finish and there was a period in the 20 minutes before half time when panic seemed to set in.

“As events turned out it was a mistake to bring back Paul Smith so soon because he pulled up with a recurrence of his hamstring injury and that left us a bit short on the bench.”

Oldham scorers: goals, Dallimore (4); tries, Robinson, Clough, Fogarty (2), Ellison, Greenwood.

Oldham: Greenwood; Brocklehurst, Fogarty, McCully, Robinson; Dallimore, Holroyd; Boults, Clough, Clarke, Smith, Acton, M Roden. Subs: Bentley, Whitmore, Ellison, Stenchion.

NWC: Johnson; Clay, Cross, Roets, Massam; Molesdale, Durbin; Walker, Hudson, Frodsham, Clarke, Morrison, Stephens. Subs: Griffiths, Broadbent, Tyrer, Brown.

Ref: Chris Leatherbarrow; Att: 580.