Depleted Crocs well beaten

Below-strength Old Crossleyans crashed 41-5 at third-from-bottom Middlesbrough in North One East on Saturday.

Defections and injuries to their small squad meant only 16 players travelled north and No 8 Ryan Hammond and winger Gareth Sweeney were injured in the first five minutes.

Former skipper Richard Wheale, pressed into action after two ankle operations, made his return off the bench and Sweeney, after going off for 15 minutes, gamely went back on and limped around for the rest of the game.

Thoroughly unpleasant conditions were another handicap for Crocs, who like to play an open game, and while there was no lack of effort and some heroic tackling, Middlesbrough’s fit and fast forwards battered the visitors into submission.

The home side scored seven tries and three conversions on a bog of a pitch, prop Phil Harland getting the first two touch downs on four minutes and 20 minutes. Simon O’Farrell added the conversion to the second of them for a 12-0 lead.

Winger Lewis Macsween added another five points but Crocs hit back via a midfield break from Gareth Ott, supported by half-back partner Chris Vine and completed by centre Jack Hammond. Vine’s conversion attempt hit a post.

The kick following centre Michael Thorburn’s 50th minute try for Middlesbrough suffered the same fate but the hosts led 22-5.

Will Clayton made ground to the 22 and player-coach Chris Jones went close before the visitors lost the ball.

A lineout drive in the corner resulted in Middlesbrough’s next try, for scrum half Peter Wright, on the hour but Crocs rallied bravely with Ott jinking through and sending Sweeney to the 22 before Will Clayton made an unsuccessful charge for the corner.

Two converted tries in the last five minutes rubbed salt into the visitors’ wounds. Hooker Ben Horton got the first of them after some power play near the posts and then Wright bagged his second.