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.