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North Wales Crusaders picked up their second win on the bounce as they recorded 14 unanswered points to see off Keighley Cougars with a dogged display.

With temperatures upwards of 25 degrees at points during the game, it was a real war of attrition throughout and it was always going to come down to which side defended their goal line better.

Following a tight opening quarter, Keighley took the lead, but a converted try and penalty goal gave Crusaders the advantage at the break.

Karl Ashall extended the lead soon after the restart and North Wales managed the game excellently for the remainder of the half, defending their line astutely to shut them out.

North Wales’ kick-off flew out on the full, giving Keighley good field position, but they couldn’t take advantage as Crusaders’ left edge defence applied great pressure, forcing an error in the corner.

Crusaders then had an opening when Matt Reid intercepted a Keighley attack and raced clear, but the visitors managed to halt him short of the line and the resulting play came to nothing.

It was the Cougars who went ahead as Taylor Prell broke down the right flank, knocked off a couple of tackles and had the pace to round Lewis Fairhurst at fullback.

However, North Wales hit back through Earl Hurst, who hit a good line to run on to Fairhurst’s pass and touch down in the left corner.

With a couple of minutes to go before half-time, the home side were awarded a penalty in front of the sticks and opted to kick for goal, Ben Stead giving Crusaders an 8-6 lead at the break.

The hosts picked up where they left off in the second half as Ashall added their second try of the afternoon, scooting over from acting half.

It was a tight affair and there were very few chances for the next 20 minutes, but Crusaders did get an opportunity to build on their lead.

On the back of a solid drive from Jonny Walker up the middle, North Wales had numbers down the right, but Stead’s pass to Reid went to ground.

Keighley were then in with a sniff as they made a break down the right flank, but Hurst scrambled excellently to bundle Matt Whelam into touch.

Although Steve Roper dropped the ball late on as he shaped up to kick a field goal, it ultimately didn’t matter as North Wales held on for a crucial two points.

On a number of occasions this season, Crusaders have been guilty of poor game management, but this is evidence that the tide is starting to turn and they could perhaps make a late charge for the play-offs.

CRUSADERS
1 Lewis Fairhurst
2 Dave Eccleston
3 Matt Reid
4 Earl Hurst
5 Dante Morley-Samuels
6 Steve Roper
7 Ryan Smith
18 Jonny Walker
15 Kenny Hughes
17 Joe Ryan
11 Kenny Baker
12 Simon Atherton
13 Karl Ashall
Subs (all used)
14 Dec Gregory
9 Ben Stead
18 Callum Hazzard
10 Warren Thompson
Tries: Hurst (31), Ashall (42)
Goals: Stead 3/3

COUGARS
31 Taylor Prell
20 Jordan Fitzpatrick-Parry
4 Will Cooke
23 Macauley Hallett
21 Matt Whelam
15 Jack Miller
7 Benn Hardcastle
19 Matt Bailey
18 Chris Cullimore
27 Lewis Wray
22 Dan Parker
13 Jason Mauranka
9 James Feather
Subs (all used)
6 Jack Coventry
10 Jamie Thackray
36 Ryan Wright
39 Spencer Darley
Tries: Prell (21)
Goals: Hardcastle 1/1

Referee: Kevin Moore
HT: 8-6
Attendance: 315
MOTM: Earl Hurst – the centre put in an outstanding display, coming up with a number of crucial defensive plays to keep the visitors out.