Crocs are maximum men

James Wainwright for Old Crossleyans against Northern
James Wainwright for Old Crossleyans against Northern

Old Crossleyans overcame the most unpromising of starts to beat Northern 32-13 and make it 15 points out of a possible 15 at home this season.

Already without forwards Chris Jones and Rory Davis for the North One East contest, they lost hooker James Cooper to an ankle injury in the opening exchanges and offered little resistance as the visitors from Gosforth muscled their way over for an early converted try.

The signs looked ominous but the Broomfield men steadied the ship and after the sides had been locked together at 13-13 approaching the final quarter the hosts scored three tries, two of them converted, for a rather flattering victory margin.

Crocs’ lineout failed to function without Jones to throw in but they overcame that handicap with their usual blend of adventurous attacking rugby and cast iron defence from numbers one to 18.

In dry, bright wind-free conditions, Crocs failed to secure the ball from Northern’s kick off and the rampant visiting forwards drove over the line inside three minutes for a 0-7 scoreline.

Home scrum half Chris Vine landed straight penalties from near the 22 line after five minutes and 20 minutes as Crocs started to get a foothold in the game, good work from fullback Joe Baker and wingers Billy Hammond and Jamie Wainwright helping them turn defence into attack.

The Northern forwards were still holding sway but their efforts to drive over the try line from lineout ball following penalty kicks to the corners failed in the face of aggressive tackling led by combative back rowers Manny Riaz and Ryan Hammond.

The visitors eventually had to settle for an easy penalty from Donal Collins to make it 6-10 on 35 minutes but Crocs replied with their first try just before half-time.

The dangerous Billy Hammond weaved his way down the middle and although he was eventually brought to ground, a long pass from the subsequent ruck left Baker in the clear and he intelligently went behind the posts to leave Vine an easy kick to make it 13-10.

Collins levelled the scores after Crocs had come off second best in a kicking exchange, Northern’s marksman pulling another effort wide shortly after.

However, injuries were taking their toll on the visitors, a centre joining a lock on the sidelines, and Crocs went back in front on 58 minutes in surprising fashion.

Having repulsed several catch and drive moves, they executed one of their own, Ryan Hammond emerging from the pile of bodies over the line with the ball.

Vine’s kick hit the left-hand upright.

Crocs were starting to get the bit between the teeth, driving Northern off the ball at the rucks, and they extended their lead to 25-13 on 63 minutes.

Ryan Hammond, who could yet prove an inspired choice as captain, made a break down the middle and second row Kev McGill collected the ball at the breakdown and found no-one at home in defence, striding behind the posts for a converted try.

Northern were far from finished and pressed hard to get back into losing bonus point territory. Crocs were getting no favours from referee Dean Walker but that only seemed to strengthen their defensive resolve as the visitors hammered away at a navy and gold wall.

A four-try bonus point looked unlikely but Crocs got it right at the death when Billy Hammond sent Vine under the posts and the number nine added the goal for a 17-point haul.

The fourth-placed Crocs head to Morpeth for only their second away game of the season next Saturday, having collected a losing bonus point from a 24-19 defeat at 100 per cent side Pocklington 15 days ago.