Return of key trio will boost Crocs’ victory bid

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Old Crossleyans should be boosted by the return of three key players as they plot an end to a four-game losing streak at Northern tomorrow.

The Broomfield side went down 18-13 at struggling Sheffield last weekend, a result which saw their ambitions of a promotion play off place recede even further.

Crocs now sit sixth, leaving director of rugby Howard Cooper to emphasise the nip-and-tuck nature of the division.

“It’s just very competitive and the results from the weekend reflect that,” said Cooper.

“Teams from the bottom of half of the table were beating teams from the top half.

“We’ve lost four games in a row now, but I think the total margin of those defeats is something like 10 points.

“We’re not far away, but we’ve just been finishing on the wrong end of things.

“Sheffield was a game we would have been expected to win, but they’re much improved and they played very well.

“Hopefully we can get back on track tomorrow.”

Crocs will be aided by the probable return of former player-coach Chris Jones, captain Ryan Hammond and Chris Wood, while the young scrum half Luke Travis is also available again.

“They were all missing last week and while that’s not an excuse, they certainly make a difference to our team,” said Cooper.

“It won’t be easy up at Northern, they won convincingly at Pocklington, but we can certainly get a result if we play well.”

Against Sheffield, Crocs trailed 10-3 at half time, with their only points coming from the boot of Chris Vine, and fell 15-3 behind early in the second half.

Eventually, prop Boj Sembi was credited with a pushover try, Vine hitting his conversion wide as Crocs closed the gap to 18-8.

Both sides were guilty of handling errors while Josh Dean, on his first senior run out, made yards but knocked on and the hosts were able to clear.

Replacement full back Gareth Sweeney was also off target with a penalty before Crocs secured the losing bonus point when, after Billy Hammond had made big yards, the ball spun loose and the attempted fly kick from Sheffield hit Vine who was able to gather and cross wide out for an unlikely five pointer, Sweeney arrowing his conversion attempt just wide.

Halifax will attempt to get their Yorkshire Four promotion bandwagon back on track when they travel to whipping boys Hornsea tomorrow.

The Ovenden Park side lost 13-10 at home to Wetherby last weekend, a performance captain Dwaine West labelled as “rubbish”.

And the skipper now believes that Halifax will need to win all their remaining league fixtures if they want to have a chance of claiming the second promotion place behind champions elect Otliensians.

“It is a big ask for us, especially the way we have been playing over the last few weeks,” said West, who was part of the side that dispatched Hornsea by a staggering 116 points earlier in the season.

“The wheels have definitely come off the wagon, but we’ll work hard and try and fix things for this weekend.

“I think they’ll be better than they were last time, so it’s not going to be as easy as people probably think.

“If that had happened to us, we’d definitely be motivated to put things right.”

Halifax must do without Elland RL pair Jack and Judd Fairbank, who have both returned to the 13-a-side fold ahead of next weekend’s Challenge Cup round.

The compensation is the return of another former RL player, Ben Benn, who should take Jack Fairbank’s place in the centre after recovering from a torn bicep.

“Jack and Judd have done well for us, but they were always going back to Elland,” said West.

Calderdale’s other Yorkshire Four side, Halifax Vandals, beaten 37-3 at Otliensians last weekend, face a trip to Sheffield Oaks.