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Anthony Murray aiming to build some momentum after Whitehaven win

By | Interview

North Wales Crusaders head coach Anthony Murray has called on his players to build on yesterday’s 24-22 victory at Whitehaven with back-to-back home matches coming up.

Murray’s side struck twice in the final five minutes to clinch a deserved two points at top-of-the-table Haven.

Crusaders were unfortunate to find themselves 18-16 down at the break, having controlled the match for large parts of the first-half.

However, North Wales showed real determination late on and Karl Ashall’s try in the final minute secured the win.

“I’m really pleased, but I’m not surprised because we’re capable of doing that and we’ve proved it during the course of the season,” Murray said.

“The main aim for us was to be better than we were against Newcastle, particularly defensively.

“I think the players were slightly embarrassed after the Newcastle defeat because defensively we haven’t been too far off this season.

“We knew Whitehaven would be really strong, one dimensional and rely heavily on their forwards. They also use a lot of offloads and try to catch you.

“I felt we dealt with that quite well.

“When we went behind, we didn’t panic, showed better game management than we have done previously and I thought we were worthy winners.

“You can’t take anything away from the players because we’ve come all the way to Cumbria and got the win.

“I think this is the third time we’ve beaten them at home and it’s a really difficult place to visit.”

Crusaders now face Keighley Cougars and Workington Town over the next two weeks, giving them a good chance to build some momentum.

“What’s been so frustrating for me as the coach and everyone else involved with Crusaders is that we’ve not been far away all season,” Murray added.

“There are ifs and maybes throughout any season, but the three games that have cost us heavily are Oldham, Keighley and London. We lost by two points and one point.

“If we win those and up here at Whitehaven, we’re on 14 points and we’re where we should be in the table on a very limited budget.

“It’s no good us coming here, getting the two points and then not backing it up in the two home games we’ve got.

“If I am honest, I think our home performances need to improve and we haven’t got a better opportunity than in this next fortnight.

“We’re not out of that race for fifth spot as there are plenty of games to go yet.

“We’ve got to back ourselves and keep moving forward.”

North Wales host Keighley Cougars at Queensway Stadium at 2.30pm on Sunday, June 30.

Tickets are priced at £12 for adults, £10 for concessions and £2 for U16s.

Report: Whitehaven 22-24 North Wales Crusaders

By | Match Report

North Wales Crusaders struck twice in the final five minutes to clinch a dramatic victory at top-of-the-table Whitehaven.

If the Rugby Football League want to present a match to show how competitive League 1 can be, they wouldn’t go far wrong with this clash.

Crusaders matched top-of-the-table Haven from start to finish in what was a real hard-fought battle.

North Wales were probably unfortunate to find themselves behind at half-time, but they showed plenty of determination and class when it mattered to take home the two points.

Crusaders went close early on as Lewis Fairhurst dummied his way through the line to cross down the left, but the referee ruled it out for an obstruction in the build-up.

Whitehaven then began to grow into the game and opened the scoring when Marc Shackley gathered a nice offload near the line to touch down underneath the sticks.

However, North Wales responded well and Earl Hurst dived over down the left, collecting Karl Ashall’s pass after he had opted to run the ball down the short side.

Within a couple of minutes, the visitors found themselves ahead as captain Kenny Baker dummied his way past a couple of tackles to dot the ball down on the whitewash.

After Crusaders had started to take control of the match, penalties started to creep into their game and it gave Haven a good chance to muster some decent field position.

The home side took advantage as Callum Phillips put Scott McAvoy over from close range.

McAvoy then added his second of the afternoon, forcing his way over the line down the right.

But North Wales pulled one back shortly before half-time when Rob Massam leaped highest to collect Steve Roper’s kick, grounding in the left corner.

In the early stages of the second-half, Crusaders went close as Matt Reid attempted to tip Roper’s kick back to Dante Morley-Samuels, but it went forward.

Whitehaven then had an effort ruled out, with Andrew Bulman adjudged to have knocked on as he tried to touch down in the corner.

Brad Brennan attempted to bulldoze his way over underneath the sticks for North Wales, but the referee called a knock on.

In an entertaining game, the chances kept coming and Whitehaven should have built on their lead, but Phillips dropped Sam Forrester’s pass with the line begging.

Although Phillips made up for the missed opportunity as he crossed down the right, Crusaders went over for two tries in the final five minutes to secure a memorable win.

For the first, they shifted the ball to the left flank and Hurst put Massam over in the corner for his second.

Despite Fairhurst missing the conversion, it didn’t matter as North Wales broke upfield from the kick-off and Reid supplied the final pass for Karl Ashall to touch down.

HAVEN
Chris Taylor
Andrew Bulman
Jason Mossop
Jessie Joe Parker
Dave Thompson
Sam Forrester
Callum Phillips
Marc Shackley
Sam Dowsett
Carl Forster
Jake Moore
Scott McAvoy
Tom Wilkinson
Subs:
Dion Aiye
Connor Holliday
Ethan Kelly
James Newton

Tries: Shackley (15), McAvoy (31,35), Phillips (69)
Goals: Moore 3/3, Holliday 0/1

CRUSADERS
Lewis Fairhurst
Dante Morley-Samuels
Matt Reid
Earl Hurst
Rob Massam
Steve Roper
Ryan Smith
Jonny Walker
Karl Ashall
Brad Brennan
Jack Houghton
Stephen Wild
Kenny Baker
Subs:
Kenny Hughes
Warren Thompson
Callum Hazzard
Joe Ryan

Tries: Hurst (22), Baker (26), Massam (39, 75), Ashall (79)
Goals: Fairhurst 2/5

Referee: Nick Bennett
HT: 18-16
Attendance: 781
MOTM: Jonny Walker – the forward worked tirelessly all afternoon and had to find another gear when Brad Brennan left the field with concussion.

Preview: Whitehaven v North Wales Crusaders

By | News

North Wales Crusaders travel to Whitehaven tomorrow as they return to League 1 action.

Below is all of the information you need to know ahead of the clash.

UP FRONT

Crusaders will be looking to respond to their 48-12 defeat at home to Newcastle Thunder last time out.

Thunder proved too strong for Anthony Murray’s men on the day, with fullback Lewis Young running riot throughout.

Whitehaven, meanwhile, fell to only their second defeat of the League 1 campaign last weekend, losing 26-20 at Newcastle.

After leading 8-6 at the break, Haven extended their advantage to 14-6 early in the second-half.

Newcastle took control, though, and Young’s try on the full-time hooter wrapped up the points for the North-West side.

LAST HEAD-TO-HEAD

The two sides met at Queensway Stadium just over a month ago, with Whitehaven running out 28-14 winners.

After Ben Stead had kicked an early penalty goal for Crusaders, Haven grew into the game and established a 16-2 advantage by half-time.

Although a try from Callum Phillips shortly after the break nudged the Cumbrians further ahead, Kenny Baker and Rob Massam tries within the space of three minutes pulled North Wales back into the game.

The hosts had opportunities to claw the deficit back further, but a late try sealed what was a deserved victory for Whitehaven on the balance of play.

PRE-MATCH COMMENTS

Read Crusaders head coach Anthony Murray’s thoughts ahead of the match.

New signing Dec Gregory also spoke to northwalescrusaders.com, explaining why he joined the club.

THE SQUAD

Murray has named his 19-man squad for the trip to Cumbria.

FAN INFORMATION

Crusaders Supporters Club are running a coach to the match, leaving The Turf at 9.30am and priced at £22 per person.

Crusaders’ 19-man squad for Whitehaven clash

By | News

North Wales Crusaders head coach Anthony Murray has named his 19-man squad for Sunday’s trip to Whitehaven.

Joe Ryan, who joined Crusaders from Rochdale a couple of weeks ago alongside Dec Gregory, is included in the squad and could feature.

Jack Houghton has been unavailable for selection for a number of weeks, but he comes back into contention.

Crusaders’ 19-man squad is as follows: Stephen Wild, Matt Reid, Lewis Fairhurst, Kenny Baker, Jack Houghton, Kenny Hughes, Karl Ashall, Steve Roper, Rob Massam, Earl Hurst, Dante Morley-Samuels, Ryan Smith, Dec Gregory, Joe Ryan, Jonny Walker, Brad Brennan, Ben Stead, Callum Hazzard, Warren Thompson.

Report: Salford City Roosters U13s 28-16 North Wales Crusaders U13s

By | Match Report

North Wales Crusaders U13’s long, 13-match unbeaten run came to an end last weekend as they were beaten 28-16 by a well-organised and committed Salford City Roosters side.

From the kick-off, the Roosters were quicker and more aggressive than Crusaders and had the visitors on the back foot for most of the first-half.

At times, Crusaders were just about hanging on as they had to absorb attack after attack from the home side.

Tries from backrowers Joe Jones and Greg Thomas had North Wales trailing 16-8 on the half-time hooter, but Crusaders come up with a handling error just metres from their own tryline.

It gave the Roosters the opportunity to score with the final play of the half, taking a 22-8 advantage into the break with what turned out to be a decisive moment.

The second-half saw a much more aggressive Crusaders come out and the game turned into a real, absorbing contest between two evenly-matched and committed sides.

Crusaders actually wrestled the game away from the Roosters for much of the half, but some handling errors and a couple of poor decisions in the home side’s half relaxed the pressure they were beginning to apply.

North Wales edged the second-half in terms of the score, but the half-time deficit was just too much to make up against a very good Roosters side who fully deserved to take the spoils.

Jones and Thomas both crossed for two tries and were well-supported by Lewis Spiers Elwin, Josh Williams, Will Buttress, Tom Himsworth and Cameron Long.

This was an excellent game of junior rugby league and a great advert for the North West Counties League.

It was played hard, tough, in a very good spirit and both teams can be very proud of their efforts and discipline.

Coach Allen Jones said: “I’ve got no quibbles about the result as the best team were deserved victors on the day.

“Our much-improved showing in the second-half was testament to the desire that the boys have to never give in.

“They did themselves some justice in the second-half with a performance of real guts and determination.

“It was inevitable that we were going to lose a game at some point and it’s now about how we respond to the setback.”

Crusaders U13s have another tough game coming up with a cup semi-final away to a much-improved Thatto Heath Crusaders.

Report: Crusaders A 26-30 Garswood Stags

By | Match Report

North Wales Crusaders A came agonisingly close to toppling joint leaders Garswood Stags on Saturday in a thrilling Division Four clash at Shotton Steel RFC.

The visitors, beaten only once in the league this season, went into an early 12-0 lead.

Although Reece Owens then crossed out wide for Crusaders, Garswood hit back with their third try on 25 minutes following quick cross-field passing from right to left.

At 18-4 down, it looked like it was going to be a tough afternoon for the home side, but they fought back well and, six minutes before the interval, Alfie Matthias broke clear down the left for a try.

For the rest of the half and a good 30 minutes of the second period, Crusaders were the better side, making ground well and maintaining possession.

After a prolonged period in attack, Crusaders finally broke through in the 57th minute with three tries in a ten-minute spell.

The Stags were clearly rattled and forced into errors, giving away penalties.

Geraint Jones scored the first followed by Dylan Rowe and Elliot Long. All were with powerful try-scoring runs.

Leading 26-18, Crusaders needed good game management and composure to hold out but, as in recent games, they failed to close out the crucial late stages.

Visiting scrum-half Rob Spurr burst over under the posts and, to make matters worse, Crusaders’ Billy Forrester was dismissed in the aftermath of the try.

Scenting victory, the visitors threw everything into attack and outstanding centre Adam Watson shook off several tackles around the halfway line, with his pace doing the rest to score the winning try.

But the drama wasn’t over with Crusaders camped on the Garswood line in a frantic final minute.

There were knock-ons by either side and, on the last play of the game, a home kick to the corner just rolled dead in-goal to the relief of the visitors and their coach Paul Loughlin, once a star of St Helens and Great Britain.

Steve Griffiths, returning strongly after a first half-injury, Luca Owen-Youens and Ryan Turner were outstanding for the home side, with Callum Leonard’s hard work always putting Garswood on the back foot.

Despite the defeat, Crusaders nevertheless should be proud of their efforts and, in the end with five tries apiece, the margin came down to kicks at goal and a lack of composure at the finish.

Tries: Owens, Matthias, Jones, Rowe, Long
Goals: Turner (3)

Report: Coventry Bears 18-34 North Wales Crusaders

By | Match Report

North Wales Crusaders got back to winning ways in League 1 with a dogged 34-18 victory over Coventry Bears.

Anthony Murray’s men led for the vast majority of the game, but they were never out of reach as Coventry continually pegged them back.

However, Crusaders crossed twice in the final five minutes to wrap up a deserved victory, which has taken them up to eighth in the table and only three points behind Newcastle Thunder in fifth.

The Bears opened the scoring early on as North Wales coughed up possession in good ball area, the hosts hacked the ball upfield and Reece Rance had the pace to break clear, finishing in the right corner.

They were then reduced to 12 men for ten minutes as Kameron Pearce-Paul was sent to the sin-bin for a trip.

Rob Massam thought he was over down the left flank, but his effort was chalked off for a forward pass in the build-up.

Crusaders did manage to hit back, though, as they put on a nice left to right shift for Dave Eccleston to cut inside and touch down.

The visitors took the lead when Steve Roper drilled in a grubber kick, it bounced off a Coventry man and captain Kenny Baker gathered to dive over next to the sticks.

In the closing stages of the first-half, North Wales had a man sent to the sin-bin as Kenny Hughes was penalised for a tackle off the ball.

Crusaders made the perfect start to the second-half, with Massam cutting inside from the left wing to force his way over.

However, the Bears’ response was swift as Lewis Taylor crashed over down the right following a good run from Rance.

But the away side re-established their ten-point advantage when Massam profited from some good play to keep the ball alive, grabbing his second of the afternoon.

After a couple of repeat sets near Crusaders’ line, though, Coventry reduced the deficit to four points once again, with Elliot Hall finding his way over down the left.

As the game entered the final ten minutes, Murray’s side closed the match out well and scored two quick-fire tries to confirm the win.

Warren Thompson collected a pass near the line to bulldoze his way over next to the posts.

Simon Atherton then broke down the right, dummied his way past a tackle and handed inside to Karl Ashall, who had a walk-in effort under the sticks.

COVENTRY
1 Elliot Hall
2 Hayden Freeman
3 Kadeem Williams
4 Kameron Pearce-Paul
5 Reece Rance
6 Brad Sheridan
7 Nick Newman
8 Peter Ryan
9 Nathan Conroy
10 Lewis Taylor
11 Jacob Jones
12 Kieran Sheratt
13 Chris Barratt
Subs:
14 Sam Davis
15 Harry Kaufman
16 Will Tully
21 Martyn Reilly

Tries: Rance (5), Taylor (49), Hall (60)
Goals: Newman 3/3

CRUSADERS
1 Lewis Fairhurst
2 Dave Eccleston
3 Simon Atherton
4 Earl Hurst
5 Rob Massam
6 Steve Roper
7 Ryan Smith
8 Callum Hazzard
9 Karl Ashall
10 Warren Thompson
11 Matt Reid
12 Stephen Wild
13 Kenny Baker
Subs:
14 Kenny Hughes
15 Brad Brennan
16 Jonny Walker
17 Liam Walsh

Tries: Eccleston (22), Baker (32), Massam (42, 54), Thompson (75), Ashall (78)
Goals: Baker 2/3, Fairhurst 3/3

Referee: Liam Staveley
HT: 6-12
Attendance: 395