North Wales Crusaders picked up their 15th consecutive victory in the Welsh derby as they crossed for 12 tries to thrash West Wales Raiders and collect their biggest ever win at Stebonheath Park.
After the disappointing defeat at home to Doncaster the previous weekend, Crusaders need to come up with a big response and that was certainly the case.
Despite having a number of first-team regulars missing through COVID-19 and injury and head coach Anthony Murray once again unable to travel as he is currently self-isolating, North Wales executed their game plan perfectly and played some expansive rugby league at times.
The visitors took the lead when, after Pat Ah Van had gone close, they exploited space on the short side for Ben Morris to put Tyme Dow-Nikau over in the corner.
Following Matt Reid drive down the left edge, Rob Massam collected the ball at acting half and crashed over to extend Crusaders’ advantage.
Massam was over again shortly after as North Wales shifted the ball from right to left and Jordy Gibson supplied the final pass to the Welsh international winger.
With half-time fast approaching, Crusaders came up with their most impressive try of the day as Massam made a break from deep within his own half and Elliott Jenkins provided a fantastic offload out-the-back for Reid to score on his return to action.
It didn’t take North Wales long to add another in the second-half, with Massam rounding West Wales’ winger to break down the left flank and he had Reid in support to finish off a brilliant move.
Jenkins then put Dow-Nikau over from close range for his second of the afternoon and came up with another assist for Connor Aspey’s first on his debut.
Aspey, who is currently on loan from Salford Red Devils, added his second a matter of minutes later, scooting over the line from dummy half.
However, West Wales pulled one back as Ashely Bateman drilled in a grubber kick, the ball bobbled about and Dai Evans collected to dot the ball down on the line.
Crusaders immediately went up the other end and added further points, though, with Brad Billsborough dummying his way through the line to dive over.
North Wales were inches away soon after as Gibson dinked in a kick with the outside of his boot and the ball rolled across the turf towards the in-goal area, but Jenkins couldn’t quite get a hand on the ball under pressure from the Raiders’ defence.
But Crusaders did go over again as play went left and Cam Brown put Massam in at the corner for his hat-trick.
Brown then got in on the act, cutting inside from the wing to bamboozle the Raiders’ defence on his way to the line.
Despite Evans completing his brace for West Wales, collecting a nice floated kick to the right edge, it was North Wales who had the last word through Ah Van, who gathered Dow-Nikau’s pass to the cross in the corner.
22 Mike Holden
16 Sam Herron
5 Dai Evans
20 Ryan Shallish
24 Aedan Coleman
23 Fraser Stroud
33 Jamie Murphy
13 Morgan Evans
15 Ashley Bateman
27 Morgan Allen
30 Callum Mulkeen
18 Charley Bodman
12 Joe Burke
26 Alexander Hicken
10 Harry Boots
31 Will Ramsey
28 Eparama Boginisoko
Tries: Evans (60, 78)
Goals: Murphy 1/2
1 Elliott Jenkins
15 Pat Ah Van
3 Tyme Dow-Nikau
4 Matt Reid
5 Rob Massam
6 Brad Billsborough
7 Jordy Gibson
16 Brad Brennan
9 Karl Ashall
10 James Thornton
11 Gav Rodden
12 Ben Morris
13 Chris Barratt
14 Connor Aspey
19 Cam Brown
18 Jack Cottington
8 Ethan O’Hanlon
Tries: Dow-Nikau (9, 48), Massam (12, 22, 74), Reid (37, 45), Aspey (52, 56), Billsborough (64), Brown (74), Ah Van (80)
Goals: Billsborough 7/11, Gibson 0/1
Referee: Matt Rossleigh
HT: 20-0Crusaders MOTM: Rob Massam – it’s difficult to single out one player, but Crusaders’ winger was outstanding and unpicked West Wales’ defence regularly throughout the game.