Old Crossleyans 51
Team Northumbria 20
Old Crossleyans achieved their target of a five point win in their battle against relegation in North One East, beating the league’s bottom club with eight good tries in an entertaining if one sided contest.
The visitors were big in heart and stature but not in defensive skills, the tactically aware home squad executing coach Chris Jones’s playbook to the letter.
Solid play from the forwards laid the foundations, well led by No 8 Manny Riaz with a hat-trick of tries and lock Kev McGill showing “Ben Morgan” touches, allowing the backs to let rip with fast running rugby.
Within three minutes scrum half Ed Cockroft started the scoreboard ticking over with a close in penalty.
Powerhouse hooker Richard Wheale stormed up the right wing from his own half to be hauled down just short, unaware of supporting winger Joe Baker. However, the follow up squad swiftly recycled, won a penalty for a deliberate knock on and a penalty try resulted when Crocs elected to take a scrum. Cockroft converted for 10 - 0.
The next try came from a lineout catch and drive from Riaz, the kick being added for 17-0 on 18 minutes.
The process was clinically repeated from fly half Gareth Ott’s precision touch finder, Riaz scoring his second but Cockroft pulling his kick wide.
Northumbria started to get their act together and knocked on close to the home line before Neil Richardson and Ott cleared danger.
The threat from Team Northumbria’s big back line was nullified by ferocious tackling from diminutive back rowers Rob Oliver and James Wainwright, Baker’s dash to the line being just stopped short on the half time whistle.
From the restart, Richardson and Jack Hammond made ground and a McGill tackle freed the ball for Riaz to storm to the posts for his hat trick, clinching the four-try bonus point. Cockroft’s kick hit an upright but Crocs led 27-0.
Left wing Leigh Thomas twice went close before Cockroft jinked through from half way and McGill sent Baker in at the corner. Cockroft added an excellent conversion.
The visitors replied when outstanding No 10 Lome Fa’atau put winger Will Stevenson in at the corner, props Andy Day and Dave Moloney leading the drive in reply for Hammond to enabled Baker to make it 39-5.
Another tap and go gave No 8 Stu Wilson the visitors’ second five pointer on 55 minutes to make it 39-10 but Hammond’s trade mark floated long pass enabled Thomas to scoot in at the corner to make it 44-10 at three quarter time.
Cockroft’s super kick created the position for Thomas to bag his third but Lome Fa’atau eluded all the cover to score an unconverted try.
Then the visitors lost men to injury and the sin bin but still had the final say through centre Paddy Blennerhassett.