North Wales Crusaders gave a number of club stalwarts the perfect send-off as they came from 12-0 down to get past London Skolars and pip them to seventh place in League 1.
Jonny Walker – one of just two players remaining from the club’s debut season back in 2012 – Alex Thompson and Stephen Wild have all played a big part in Crusaders’ history and hung up their boots following the clash with Skolars.
It looked like their farewell game wasn’t going to be a happy one as London raced into a 12-0 lead in the early stages.
However, Crusaders clawed their way back at the end of the first-half and dominated the second to secure what turned out to be a comfortable victory in the end.
London took the lead when a kick over the top of Crusaders’ defence took an awkward bounce and Liam Scott collected to touch down next to the posts.
After Rob Massam had an effort disallowed in the corner as the referee called a forward pass in the build-up, the visitors extended their advantage through Jordan Williams, who broke a tackle down the left flank to force his way over.
With half-time approaching, however, North Wales pulled one back as Massam collected a Skolars error and knocked off a couple of attempted tackles on his way to the line.
Crusaders drew level shortly before the break when Wild gathered a nice offload from Joe Ryan near the line to dot the ball down.
The home side carried on in the second-half as they’d finished the first, with Massam showing great strength to grab his second in the left corner.
As Crusaders looked to find their way over for another, though, Omari Caro intercepted a short-side play to race the length of the field and finish out wide.
Trailing by two points, North Wales opted to kick for goal when they were awarded a penalty for interference and Ben Stead added the two points to draw his side level.
The hosts had further joy down the left and went ahead again as Atherton, who is having some time away from rugby league, barged his way over.
With 11 minutes left on the clock, Wild put the result beyond doubt when he broke a tackle down the right and fended off a number of attempted tackles on his way to the line.
Atherton then hit a great line, offloaded to Dave Eccleston and, despite Crusaders’ stand-in fullback having a walk-in effort, he spotted Walker nearby, handing on to the prop forward to touch down for a try as he brought his 168-game North Wales career to an end.
There was still time for another try, however, when Alex Eckley broke upfield, passed to Wild and had the ball returned to him to cross next to the sticks, rounding off a good afternoon’s work for the Welshmen.
1 Dave Eccleston
3 Dante Morley-Samuels
2 Earl Hurst
4 Alex Thompson
5 Rob Massam
6 Karl Ashall
7 Ben Stead
17 Jonny Walker
9 Dec Gregory
10 Warren Thompson
11 Matt Reid
12 Simon Atherton
13 Stephen Wild
21 Alex Eckley
8 James Tilley
18 Joe Ryan
16 Brad Brennan
Tries: Massam (31, 44), Wild (37, 69), Atherton (66), Walker (79), Eckley (80)
Goals: Stead 3/6, Walker 0/1, Wild 1/1
2 Iliess Macani
1 Kayne Chan-Kitchener
3 Omari Caro
4 Jordan Williams
5 Jerome Yates
14 Richard Wilkinson
19 Jy-mel Coleman
10 Judd Greenhalgh
9 Neil Thorman
8 Michael Sykes
11 Jonathan Magrin
12 Michael Greenhalgh
13 Liam Scott
15 Matthew Davies
7 Mike Bishay
18 Eddie Mbaraga
17 Tommy Chipchase
Tries: Scott (12), Williams (25), Caro (51)
Goals: Thorman 3/3
Referee: Kevin Moore
MOTM: Stephen Wild – his final performance epitomised what he’s done so well throughout his career, showing great leadership and doing all of the small things that can often go unnoticed.