Old Crossleyans registered a rare and handsome win over Middlesbrough, by 36-10 at Broomfield, with the help of two tries from stand off Gareth Ott and 16 points from winger Leigh Thomas.
The North One East victory, which keeps Chris Jones’s side fourth, was based on watertight defence in the first half and attacking flair in the second, when four tries in 29 minutes put the game to bed.
Crocs were aided by another sunny Saturday, the fine conditions favouring their open style of play, but they were on the back foot for much of a scoreless opening half hour.
Middlesbrough are in the midst of an injury crisis and have won only two league games this season but they were still able to field a big, workmanlike pack which was content to retain possession and make slow progress up the pitch.
The visitors got close to the try line on several occasions, Jones and fellow back rower Ryan Hammond running the ball back strongly to provide some temporary respite.
But generally it was all hands to the pumps for Crocs, who simply refused to buckle and then broke away for the opening score.
Starting with the ball behind their own posts, right winger Billy Hammond was sent on his way close to the top touchline. After beating a defender on half-way he made it to within five metres of the line before being tap-tackled. Scrum half Chris Vine was one of those up in support and he scampered in behind the posts, Thomas adding the conversion.
Middlesbrough were soon back on the attack but their lack of success in trying to breach the home defence, and the fact that their forwards were blowing hard, prompted them to take three points via the foot of fullback Jack Bircham on 37 minutes.
Thomas was narrowly off target with a long, straight penalty chance but made no mistake with a similar effort in stoppage time at the end of the first half.
Crocs were fortunate to be 10-3 up at that stage but they blew away the visitors after the break.
Jones was involved twice in a move which took play close to the Middlesbrough line and Ott’s side-step did the rest, Thomas converting.
The visitors then had two lucky escapes. Billy Hammond was denied a try for a double movement when other teammates were on hand to score and then Thomas strolled in but to general surprise was pulled back for a forward pass.
It mattered little. Thomas got one which did count on 52 minutes, cutting in towards the posts to make his conversion easier, and Ott wrong-footed the defence again on the hour to make it 29-3 and gain a four-try bonus point.
Thomas’s 60 metre break and Joe Baker’s clever slipped pass enabled replacement forward Manny Riaz to get the next try, Thomas’s third conversion completing Crocs’ scoring.
Middlesbrough gamely stuck to the task and dominated in the last 10 minutes against a much-changed home line-up. They were rewarded when prop Craig Chapman plunged over following a penalty kick to the corner, Bircham adding the conversion.