North Wales Crusaders held off a Hunslet comeback to pick up their first-ever victory at the South Leeds Stadium and continue the momentum they’ve gained in recent weeks.
After a near perfect first-half saw Crusaders head into half-time with a healthy 26-0 lead, Hunslet staged an impressive comeback after the break, but the visitors managed to hold on.
In previous years, the Welsh side may have caved in and given up their lead, but Anthony Murray’s men have a lot more resolve these days and shut out Hunslet at the death as they searched for an equaliser.
North Wales had a great chance early on as Rob Massam broke down the left wing and set up Karl Ashall on his inside, but the hooker was stopped short of the line and came up with a loose carry.
However, Crusaders did take the lead when Brad Brennan knocked off numerous attempted tackles to force his way over underneath the posts.
They built on their advantage soon after as Gav Rodden collected the ball from acting half and scooted over the line.
The Welshmen got their third when Jordy Gibson dinked a lovely kick inside for Tommy Johnson to cross next to the sticks.
After receiving a penalty for a late hit on Brad Billsborough, Crusaders opted to kick for goal and Johnson added another two points to take their lead to 20-0.
With seconds left before the half-time hooter, North Wales added another as Matt Reid crashed over down the left flank.
The early stages of the second-half were always going to be important and the visitors picked up where they left off in the first period, with some expansive play putting Rodden over in the corner for his second.
However, Hunslet began their comeback as Jordan Andrade made the most of repeat sets near Crusaders’ line to barge his way over.
Vila Halifihi then broke the line and rounded Johnson at fullback to reduce the home side’s deficit to 30-12.
North Wales thought they were in and had wraped up the match as Johnson crossed down the left, but the touch judge ruled him in touch.
Hunslet were visibly growing in confidence, making the most of Crusaders’ ill-discipline at times, and they were well and truly back in the game when Lewis Young squeezed over in the right corner.
And a grandstand finish was set up in the closing minutes, with a nice grubber kick putting Matty Chrimes down the left.
After being awarded a penalty late on, North Wales opted to go for goal once again, but Johnson sliced it wide.
However, as Hunslet tried to keep the ball alive on the full-time hooter from the resulting play, they came up with an error and Pat Ah Van picked up the pieces to clinch a big win for Crusaders.
25 Lewis Young
1 Wayne Rettie
5 Matty Chrimes
3 Will Cooke
27 Alex Brown
24 David Gibbons
7 Dom Brambani
10 Harry Kidd
9 Vila Halifihi
15 Alex Rowe
11 Brad Hey
12 Duane Straugheir
16 Mike Wood
22 Jy-Mel Coleman
8 Jordan Andrade
17 Lewis Wray
13 Harvey Hallas
Tries: Andrade (47), Halifihi (54), Young (66), Chrimes (76)
Goals: Brambani 4/4
1 Tommy Johnson
15 Pat Ah Van
3 Ben Morris
4 Matt Reid
5 Rob Massam
6 Brad Billsborough
7 Jordy Gibson
16 Brad Brennan
9 Karl Ashall
10 Warren Thompson
11 Gav Rodden
12 Alex Eckley
13 Chris Barratt
14 Andy Ball
18 Ethan O’Hanlon
8 Ethan Kelly
17 Connor Terrill
Tries: Brennan (9), Rodden (17, 42), Johnson (25), Reid (40), Ah Van (80)
Goals: Johnson 5/8
Referee: Kevin Moore
MOTM: Alex Eckley – Crusaders’ second rower didn’t stop, played big minutes and helped drive his side forward throughout.