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.
Jessie Joe Parker
Tries: Shackley (15), McAvoy (31,35), Phillips (69)
Goals: Moore 3/3, Holliday 0/1
Tries: Hurst (22), Baker (26), Massam (39, 75), Ashall (79)
Goals: Fairhurst 2/5
Referee: Nick Bennett
MOTM: Jonny Walker – the forward worked tirelessly all afternoon and had to find another gear when Brad Brennan left the field with concussion.