North Wales Crusaders head coach Anthony Murray believes his side “won’t be far off” in League 1 if they perform as they did against Widnes Vikings in pre-season.
After taking the lead early on and asking plenty of questions throughout the first-half, Murray’s men fell to a 48-6 defeat at Widnes, who will be challenging for promotion back to Super League in 2019.
“I’m really pleased and proud of the lads,” he said.
“I asked for an improvement on the Swinton performance in the areas we’d looked at and I got that.
“They scored three tries from kicks in the first-half, but they found it really difficult to break our line. We just needed to finish the sets a little bit better by putting on some pressure from marker on the kicker.
“In the second-half, they showed that extra bit of class. We struggled to get out of our 40 metres and we only really had two good ball sets.
“We knocked on over the line two times and, with Joe Connor’s break in the first-half as well, we could have had about 20 points on the board ourselves on another day.”
Crusaders named an 18-man squad compared to Widnes’ 25 because of injuries and players unavailable, with Murray singling out his forward pack for praise.
“We had one forward on the bench so I was really pleased with our middles,” he said. “They went through a mountain of work.”
Murray added: “I’m happy with how pre-season has gone. The lads have been working really hard and there’s a bit of a buzz about the place.
“We were a bit down this week because we were disappointing at Swinton and we didn’t carry out some of the things we’d worked on, but the lads are in good spirits after this performance.
“I’ve told them they should take some confidence from that and be proud of themselves.
“There are some bad bits in there, but we can work on that.
“We need to pick out all of the good bits as we’re probably not going to play any sides in League 1 as capable as that.
“If we defend our goal-line and play as we did against Widnes, we won’t be far off.”
North Wales now host Coventry Bears at Queensway Stadium on Saturday, February 2.