Old Crossleyans director of rugby Howard Cooper gave his players a collective pat on the back for their display in the opening 40 minutes of today’s 33-10 home win over Rochdale in North One East.
The Broomfield men had drawn a blank on the match points front for the first time this season the previous Saturday when a losing bonus slipping away in the closing minutes of a 39-20 defeat at Malton and Norton.
However, they responded in the best possible style by roaring into a 19-0 interval lead against Roses rivals Rochdale, who had won five of their previous seven games since stepping up a division.
Alarm bells briefly started ringing when Rochdale hit back with two unconverted tries after the break but Crocs got their second wind and their open style of rugby produced another 14 points late on.
Cooper said: “We wanted to go out with all guns firing and we absolutely delivered.
“Our support play was excellent and our ball retention as good as its gets.
“Our play in the first half was as good as anything we have played for many a year.”
Crocs need no second invitation to try to run the ball and they took it to new extremes in the absence of tactical kickers Neil Richardson and Gareth Ott.
Their high-risk strategy paid off for the main part in the first half and Rochdale spent almost the entire 40 minutes without the ball and manning the barricades.
Crocs, playing into a breeze strong enough to bend the poplars at the bottom of the ground, took to the field with Chris Jones and Chris Seymour plugging the gaps at numbers 10 and 12 and a pack which included returning pair Chris Wood and Matt Schofield.
Rochdale were rabbits caught in the headlights, being unable to get their hands on the ball before their hosts had opened the scoring on six minutes.
Jones’s long pass sent James Wainwright racing to half way and after a couple of penalties in Crocs’ favour, No 8 Ryan Hammond crashed through a couple of tacklers and laid a try on a plate for fellow back rower Manny Riaz. Chris Vine was unable to convert from near the bottom touchline.
Jones and Seymour combined to send open side Schofield through the middle but when Wood was isolated and penalised, Rochdale got a chance to catch their breath and open their account but James Duffy’s penalty from almost half-way was off target.
Rochdale took a scrum against the head but knocked on and Crocs took play back into visitors’ territory with a good chase from a 22 drop out.
Two of the Hammond brothers, winger Billy and centre Jack, both showed their strength to shake off tacklers and lock Tony Oxley, who had a fine game, collected the off-load to rumble under the posts, Vine’s kick making it 12-0 after 22 minutes.
A big hit from Riaz was followed by a run from fullback Joe Baker along the bottom touchline as Crocs attempted to turn the screw.
Wainwright got to within 10 metres of the try line and although a penalty brought temporary relief for Rochdale, the outstanding Jack Hammond broke through again and Riaz took a return pass from Billy Hammond to score his second try on 35 minutes. Vine had no problem adding the conversion.
It was all too good to last and Crocs appeared to mentally switch off at the start of the second half. They conceded a string of penalties and their set piece came under intense pressure as Rochdale lifted themselves off the ropes and showed commendable spirit.
A lineout catch and drive produced a pushover try for visiting lock Tom Helliwell which left footed kicker Duffy was unable to convert on 46 minutes.
Ryan Hammond almost made it to the other end but back came Rochdale and Jack Hammond was sin-binned on the hour for a deliberate knock on as Rochdale tried to move the ball on the home 22.
Three minutes later the visitors made their extra man pay, Josh Schofield going over wide on the left for another unconverted try and a 19-10 scoreline.
Crocs needed to raise their game and did. Vine was narrowly off target with a straight 40 metre penalty before the returning Jack Hammond and Baker were stopped inches short of the try line.
Rochdale’s Ali Harper was yellow carded and Crocs shrugged off the loss of more scrum ball from their own put-in to add another converted try on 74 minutes, Vine and Oxley paving the way for Schofield to cross 15 metres to the left of the posts.
Deep into added time, Crocs put the icing on the cake with a long range strike. It seemed to take an eternity for Billy Hammond to round up a wickedly bouncing kick downfield but he eventually injected some momentum into the move and brother Jack was there to find the supporting Vine, who scampered over and added the conversion.