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North Wales Crusaders lost 22-12 at Queensway Stadium as they struggled to find a way past top-of-the-table Hunslet’s stubborn defensive line.

The away side found themselves 14-0 up after 23 minutes and, ultimately, that opening spell proved to be the difference.

Crusaders asked plenty of questions of their visitors and had large spells of pressure, but they failed to break down Hunslet.

Gary Thornton’s side managed the game well, drilling kicks into the corner late on to constantly peg back Crusaders, and they showed extra quality when it mattered most to wrap up the win.

The visitors took the lead when Josh Tonks ran on to a short ball near the line and crashed his way over.

At this point, Hunslet were beginning to generate some decent go-forward in attack and Crusaders were struggling to contain them.

Hunslet were then awarded a penalty as North Wales were pulled up for dissent, with Reece Dean adding on an extra two points.

When the away side opted to kick a penalty in their next set, though, Dean was unsuccessful and sliced his attempt wide of the sticks.

However, the Yorkshire side did build on their lead further as a nice, lopping pass to the right wing saw Gareth Potts cross in the corner.

The response from Crusaders was positive and Kenny Hughes went close to pulling one back, but he knocked the ball on after he had charged down a kick and won the race to the ball.

However, they did manage to get on the board through Sam Freeman, who picked up a loose Hunslet pass to race 90 metres upfield and score.

The hosts were then given a penalty on the half-time hooter and kicked a goal as they trailed 14-6 at the break.

It was tight in the opening exchanges of the second-half so, when Hunslet were given a penalty for a high tackle, they chose to go for goal, with Dean giving them a ten-point lead.

Crusaders dominated for the next 20 minutes and had repeat sets on the visitors’ line on a couple of occasions, but they couldn’t make the most of their territory.

Welsh international Elliott Jenkins was inches away from scoring down the right flank, while Simon Atherton dropped the ball after hitting a nice line.

Hunslet made their hosts pay for the missed chances as they went up the other end and Jack Lee scooted over from close range.

North Wales grabbed what looked to be a consolation late on as Jenkins touched down Kenny Baker’s grubber into the in-goal area.

Hunslet’s kick-off then went out on the full and gave Crusaders a glimpse of hope, but they knocked on down the other end and the visitors saw out the victory comfortably.

1 Ryan Smith
2 Sam Freeman
3 Matt Reid
4 Earl Hurst
5 Rob Massam
6 Steve Roper
7 Elliott Jenkins
10 Warren Thompson
9 Karl Ashall
8 Callum Hazzard
11 Jack Houghton
12 Simon Atherton
13 Kenny Baker
Subs (all used)
14 Kenny Hughes
17 Brad Brennan
21 Joe Ryan
18 Jonny Walker

Tries: Freeman (31), Jenkins (74)
Goals: Freeman 2/3

1 James Watson
2 Gareth Potts
30 Charles Martin
3 Tom Ashton
5 Dale Bloomfield
21 Reece Dean
22 Danny Nicklas
32 Jon Luke Kirby
9 Jack Lee
10 Adam Robinson
11 Josh Tonks
12 Duane Straugheir
13 Mike Emmitt
Subs (all used)
20 Vila Halafihi
16 Zach Braham
17 Danny Hawksworth
31 Harry Kidd

Tries: Tonks (10), Potts (23), Lee (66)
Goals: Dean 5/6

Referee: John McMullen
HT: 6-14
Attendance: 317
Crusaders MOTM: Matt Reid – the centre made some impressive metres going forward and asked questions of Hunslet’s defensive line