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NORTH WALES CRUSADERS lost 48-6 to partner club Widnes Vikings in their second pre-season outing, despite putting in a resolute display against the Championship promotion hopefuls.

As Crusaders ran with a bench five men lighter than Widnes and the majority of the Vikings’ squad are on full-time contracts, it was always going to be a big test for Anthony Murray’s men.

However, they shocked Widnes by opening the scoring early on and asked plenty of questions during the first-half.

North Wales won’t come up against many sides as strong as the Vikings this season so, if they perform in League 1 as they did in this match, they won’t be far away in 2019 and should give themselves every opportunity of pushing towards the top end of the table.

The visitors had an opportunity early on when Ben Stead drilled a kick into the right corner and Widnes fumbled it, but Olly Ashall-Bott beat Gavin Conroy to the ball after the winger had hacked it forward.

It was North Wales who crossed first, though, as Kenny Baker stepped the Vikings’ defence and managed to force his way over.

However, Widnes hit back immediately through Keanan Brand, who leaped above Conroy to claim Danny Craven’s kick and dot the ball down in the corner.

The hosts took the lead within a couple of minutes as Rob Massam couldn’t collect a kick to the corner and Anthony Gelling picked up the pieces to cross out wide on his first Widnes appearance.

It wasn’t long before they extended their advantage as, after Dom Speakman’s break had set up field position, Chris Dean broke down the left and knocked off a couple of tackles on his way to the line.

Despite Crusaders getting a foothold back in the game, Widnes added their fourth when Craven shimmied across the line and put Sam Wilde over from close range.

On the half-time hooter, the Vikings added another as Jack Owens chipped over Crusaders’ defence for Ryan Ince to finish well in the corner.

Widnes started the second-half as they’d finished the first, with Ashall-Bott rounding Alex Thompson to find his way over in the corner.

North Wales hit back and thought they were in down the right flank, but Callan Beckett was forced into touch as he slid in attempting to touch the ball down.

The home side bagged another the next time they went forward, however, with Craven putting Wilde over for his second from close range.

Crusaders had another opportunity through Danny Price, but he dropped the ball as he tried to place it down over the line.

Wilde then turned provider as he sent both Owens and Craven over for quick-fire scores.

The home side finished off the win in the closing stages when Sam Walter found himself in plenty of space and rounded Conroy at fullback.

1 Olly Ashall-Bott
24 Keanan Brand
12 Chris Dean
4 Anthony Gelling
2 Ryan Ince
6 Danny Craven
5 Jack Owens
18 Ted Chapelhow
9 Liam Hood
10 Adam Tangata
11 Harrison Hansen
17 Sam Wilde
16 MacGraff Leuluai
Subs (all used)
14 Wellington Albert
20 Owen Farnworth
19 Brad Walker
21 Joe Lyons
22 Owen Buckley
27 Sam Freeman
31 Dom Speakman (trialist)
23 Liam Walsh
25 Lloyd Roby
29 Sam Walters

Tries: Brand (14), Gelling (19), Dean (22), Wilde (33, 50), Ince (40), Ashall-Bott (44), Owens (63), Craven (68), Walter (73)
Goals: Owens 2/7, Craven 0/1, Walker 2/2

1 Danny Price
23 Gavin Conroy
25 Callan Beckett
4 Earl Hurst
5 Rob Massam
6 Steven Roper
22 Ben Stead
10 Warren Thompson
9 Karl Ashall
8 Brad Brennan
12 Simon Atherton
11 Alex Thompson
13 Kenny Baker
Subs (all used)
17 Joe Connor
15 Kenny Hughes
2 Dave Eccleston
3 Aled Davies
14 Lee Hudson

Tries: Baker (11)
Goals: Baker 1/1

Referee: Craig Smith
HT: 22-6
Attendance: 1,560
Crusaders man of the match: Dave Eccleston – the winger impressed when he came on and put in a number of important tackles.

Photography by Richard Long