North Wales Crusaders pushed Barrow Raiders, one of the favourites for promotion from League 1 in 2020, all the way in their first outing of pre-season.

Anthony Murray gave eight of his brand-new signings in the off-season a run out, while Tommy Johnson made his first appearance in over a year after sitting out the entire 2019 campaign.

Given the majority of Crusaders’ side hadn’t played alongside each other before and they had a number of players missing, meaning they were without a recognised hooker, it was an extremely positive start to 2020.

Despite finding themselves under a great deal of pressure in the first-half, North Wales defended admirably at times, shutting out plenty of threatening attacks.

When the Wrexham side did manage to gain some field position and targeted Barrow’s tiring forwards, they looked dangerous and scored some nice tries.

The home side took the lead when Ryan Duffy ran on to a short ball near the line to crash over.

After dealing with further Barrow pressure, Crusaders started to grow into the game and nearly pulled one back as Dave Eccleston broke clear, but he was stopped in his tracks.

However, they took their next opportunity, with North Wales shifting the ball left for Earl Hurst to put Rob Massam over in the corner.

But the Raiders were soon back in the ascendency and Tee Ritson took advantage of a break down the left to cross underneath the sticks.

A couple of minutes later, Dan Toal took advantage of a couple of inventive offloads near the line to crash over for Barrow’s third.

In the early stages of the second-half, Massam went close to adding his second in the left corner, before Joe Crarey scooted over from acting half to extend the home side’s lead to 20 points.

Crusaders dominated the final 20 minutes, though, and pulled one back when Elliott Jenkins drilled a delightful grubber kick into the in-goal area for Jordy Gibson to touch down.

And North Wales rounded off the afternoon’s scoring as Jack Holmes broke through the line on halfway and had the pace to finish next to the sticks.

RAIDERS
1 Luke Cresswell
2 Shane Toal
3 Dec Hulme
19 Perry Singleton
5 Tee Ritson
6 Jamie Dallimore
7 Ryan Johnston
8 Ryan Duffy
9 Joe Crarey
10 Carl Forster
11 Jono Smith
12 Jarrad Stack
29 Charlie Emslie
Subs:
17 Jake Carter
23 Mark Tyson
21 Adam Ford
15 Dan Toal
22 Connor Terrill
24 Liam Saunders
30 Carl McBain
27 Tom Hopkins

CRUSADERS
2 Jack Holmes
1 Dave Eccleston
3 Jordan Penny
4 Earl Hurst
5 Rob Massam
7 Steve Roper
6 Elliott Jenkins
16 Brad Brennan
9 Jordy Gibson
10 Warren Thompson
11 Kieran Sherratt
12 Gav Rodden
13 Chris Barratt
Subs:
25 Tommy Johnson
15 Jack Cottington
18 Joe Ryan
19 James Tilley
21 Joey Brady
23 Ryan Millington

Referee: Gareth Hewer
HT: 18-4
Attendance: 835
MOTM: Jack Holmes – Crusaders’ off-season signing looked lively whether he was playing at fullback or centre, scoring a nice solo effort near the end of the game.