North Wales Crusaders’ pre-season opener ended in defeat as Hunslet crossed for three tries in the final 11 minutes to secure a 34-18 victory.

Anthony Murray’s men were arguably the better side for the vast majority of the game and the end result may well have been different had Hunslet not opted to name a 28-man squad, seeing off a tiring Crusaders late on.

As Hunslet are one of the favourites to win League 1 in 2021, there are certainly plenty of positives for North Wales, who are set to welcome back a number of well-known names in their second friendly at Rochdale Hornets next weekend.

Crusaders took the lead when Brad Billsborough put Callum Hazzard through the line and he had Alex Eckley in support on his outside to finish underneath the sticks.

The away side thought they’d extended their lead when a nice left to right shift saw Cam Brown put Dave Eccleston over in the corner, but play was pulled back for a forward pass.

When Hunslet assaulted Crusaders’ right edge, they managed to level the game, with Jimmy Watson doing well to ground in the corner.

On the stroke of half-time, the Yorkshiremen went ahead as Keidan Hartley broke on halfway and rounded a number of Crusaders defenders on the way to the line.

Hunslet should have built on their lead early in the second-half when they kept the ball alive down the right and Joe McClean made a half break, but they came up with an error.

North Wales took full advantage as, after the hosts had dropped the ball near their own line, they worked play to the left for Patrick Ah Van to force his way over in the corner.

Hunslet soon hit back, though, with Louis McConnell breaking the line and reaching out to dot the ball down.

At this point, the game seemed to be changing hands all the time and Crusaders then went in for a third, with Callum Hazzard coming up with a brilliant offload in the tackle to put Jack Cottington over.

But Hunslet grabbed three quick-fire tries in the final 11 minutes to secure a win by a margin they probably didn’t deserve.

Jordan Andrade was twice put through the line, showing plenty of strength to force his way over, before Jack Norfolk profited from some expansive play down the right to complete the afternoon’s scoring.

HUNSLET
1 Jimmy Watson
2 Keidan Hartley
3 Will Cooke
4 Tom Ashton
23 Aaron Jones-Bishop
6 Simon Brown
27 Jy-Mel Coleman
8 Jordan Andrade
9 Vila Halafihi
10 Harry Kidd
11 Brad Hey
12 Duane Straugheir
13 Harvey Hallas
Interchanges:
18 Anthony Boardman
15 Alex Rowe
21 Joe McClean
17 Lewis Wray
19 Liam Copland
14 Nathan Conroy
16 Tom Dunford
24 Jack Norfolk
25 Louis Singleton
26 Sion Jones
7 Jake Sweeting
22 Louis McConnell

Tries: Watson (35), Hartley (40), McConnell (61), Andrade (69, 74), Norfolk (79)
Goals: Brown 2/3, Copland 3/3

CRUSADERS
1 Jack Holmes
2 Dave Eccleston
3 Cam Brown
4 Dante Morley-Samuels
15 Patrick Ah Van
6 Elliott Jenkins
7 Brad Billsborough
8 Jack Cottington
9 Karl Ashall
10 Callum Hazzard
11 Matt Reid
12 Gav Rodden
17 Alex Eckley
Interchanges:
14 Andy Ball
13 Chris Barratt
16 Brad Brennan
Ben Morris
Will Lynch
Brad Calland

Tries: Eckley (7), Ah Van (50), Cottington (66)
Goals: Billsborough 3/3

Referee: Matt Rossleigh
HT: 10-6
Crusaders MOTM: Alex Eckley – the loose forward was a real handful for Hunslet, hitting some great lines and making decent metres going forward, and Crusaders missed him when he left the field in the second-half.