North Wales Crusaders averaged nearly a point-a-minute in a 40-minute spell either side of half-time to kick-off their League 1 campaign with a comfortable victory at London Skolars.

After issues with Crusaders’ team coach saw them arrive just 30 minutes before a slightly delayed kick-off, the visitors did start slowly and London were on top in the opening stages.

Once North Wales began hitting their stride, though, they were far superior and went on to control the remainder of the match, playing some very expansive rugby league at times.

While conceding 24 points is no doubt something Anthony Murray will want to improve on, recording 44 points at a place that has proved difficult to visit in recent years will give him plenty to be pleased about.

On the back of some early pressure on Crusaders’ line, London took the lead when Mike Greenhalgh barged his way over from acting half.

But North Wales managed to get a foothold in the match and drew level through Patrick Ah Van, who profited from Gav Rodden’s nice offload in the tackle to cross out wide.

Crusaders took the lead for the first time when Jordy Gibson found a hole in the Skolars defence to force his way over down the left.

As Omari Caro caught Gibson high in the act of scoring, referee James Vella sent the London winger to the sin-bin for ten minutes and awarded an eight-point try, with Brad Billsborough kicking both goals to nudge the visitors more than one converted try ahead.

With half-time fast approaching, Brad Brennan freed his arm in the tackle and offloaded to Gibson, who had the simple task of dotting the ball down for his second of the afternoon.

With a 14-point margin between the two sides at the break, you sensed the next try would be important and it went to Crusaders.

It was the pick of the bunch as North Wales shifted the ball to the right and Rodden managed to spin round in the tackle to keep play alive, with Ah Van once again in the right place on the touchline to grab his second.

Jono Smith then bulldozed his way over the line from close range for his first Crusaders try since he returned to the club during the off-season.

In the next set from kick-off, Smith turned provider as he lofted an amazing long-range pass to the left flank for Rob Massam to cross in the corner.

London pulled one back soon after as Kam Pearce-Paul scooted over the line from close range.

At the other end, though, Ah Van kept up his impressive try-scoring in a Crusaders shirt as he sealed his hat-trick, with Rodden putting the Samoan international over in the corner.

As impressive as North Wales were going forward, some ill-discipline and questionable decisions invited London pressure on their line and Rob Oakley grabbed two tries in quick succession.

But Crusaders had the last word on the full-time hooter as Gibson drilled in a perfectly-weighted grubber kick for Earl Hurst to touch down.

5 Omari Caro
2 Errol Carter
3 Kam Pearce-Paul
4 Lameck Juma
1 Jonah Varela
6 Jacob Thomas
7 Mike Bishay
8 Eddie Mbaraga
9 Tom Firth
10 James Tyas
11 Adam Vranos
12 Mike Greenhalgh
13 Christian Gale
25 Neil Thorman
17 Rob Oakley
18 Lamont Bryan
15 Malikhi Lloyd-Jones

Tries: Greenhalgh (12), Pearce-Paul (63), Oakley (69, 77)
Goals: Caro 1/1, Thorman 3/3

2 Jack Holmes
15 Patrick Ah Van
3 Ben Morris
4 Earl Hurst
5 Rob Massam
6 Brad Billsborough
7 Jordy Gibson
8 Chris Barratt
9 Karl Ashall
10 Warren Thompson
11 Gav Rodden
13 Jono Smith
12 Alex Eckley
14 George Roby
17 Callum Hazzard
16 Brad Brennan
18 Jack Cottington

Tries: Ah Van (24, 46, 66), Gibson (33, 40), Smith (53), Massam (56), Hurst (80)
Goals: Billsborough 6/8, Gibson 0/1

Referee: James Vella
HT: 6-20
Crusaders MOTM: George Roby – while there were a number of stand-out performances, the young hooker had an impressive debut for Crusaders and helped kickstart a solid team display after a slow start.

NWC Rugby League