Fast-starting Crocs never look back

Old Crossleyans 34 Durham City 7

By Ian Rushworth

CROCS’ North One East survival campaign gathered further momentum with an easy win over mid-table rivals who had beaten them at home by a 25-point margin just a couple of months earlier.

Tries in the first six minutes from backs Leigh Thomas and Chris Seymour settled the nerves and when Joe Baker had ensured a bonus point with his side’s fourth on 48 minutes, the game was virtually over as a contest with the Broomfield men 24-0 to the good.

Durham belatedly offered some resistance, but Crocs’ fourth win in the last five games means they will head up the A1 to Northern and bottom club Hartlepool Rovers on the next two Saturdays with bright prospects of staying up.

Chris Jones’s side climbed a place to ninth. The fact that Northern, Carlisle and Pontefract all drew a blank while Driffield managed just a losing bonus point at West Hartlepool made it a thoroughly satisfying day for the club.

Crocs were unchanged, with mid-week doubt Richard Wheale declared fit, and they set their stall out from the start to impose themselves and play open rugby.

Gareth Ott’s return to the side at fly-half has been a major plus and he created the two early scores.

An inside pass sent winger Leigh Thomas striding in under the posts and he then jinked past two defenders to pave the way for long-serving fullback Seymour to plunge over half way out to the bottom touchline.

Goalkicking remains a problem for Crocs and Neil Richardson missed both kicks.

The home side were rampant for the next half hour with the lineout in particular providing a constant flow of quality possession. There were fewer scrums than normal although the grizzled home front row of Wheale, Andy Day and Mark Palmer took three against the head during the course of the contest.

Crocs runners were smashing through flimsy defence but chances went begging, notably when Dan Temm broke through on the left but sent out a poor pass and then when Richardson’s offload to Manny Riaz in the shadow of the posts was forward.

It was one-way traffic and almost half an hour had been played before Durham mounted their first attack.

Crocs looked as though they would have to settle for a 10-point interval lead, which went no way towards reflecting their superiority, until find of the season Temm took matters into his own hands.

The tall back rower beat three men on a 60 metre weaving run to the try line and Richardson added the extras after 39 minutes.

Temm set off on another run from the restart but became isolated and conceded a penalty, visiting fullback Rob Smith’s shot at goal going wide of the left upright.

Durham made progress on the back of a couple of good kicks from fly-half Alastair Blair at the start of the second half but Crocs extended their lead when lively No 8 Ryan Hammond made ground to set up a ruck in a central position 20 metres out and four accurate passes enabled winger Baker to touch down. With the pressure off, Richardson’s touchline conversion flew over.

Durham wasted the chance for a good attacking platform when Blair’s penalty meant for the corner went into touch in goal and Crocs surged back to the visitors’ try line through Ryan and Jack Hammond, the former eventually touching down a pushover try on 54 minutes after a strike against the head.

Richardson missed the kick but Crocs were out of sight at 29-0, prompting the introduction of replacements for both sides.

The changes seemed to benefit Durham, whose forwards summoned up some fight and began to maul and counter-ruck effectively.

Crocs twice produced stout defence on their own line as Durham had a territorial advantage for the best part of 20 minutes.

When the visitors eventually managed a try, it came from distance on 77 minutes. Smith, the pick of the Durham backs, showed good pace in outstripping the defence following a scrum on half way. He banged over an excellent conversion for good measure.

Crocs fittingly had the last word three minutes into added time, slick passing from Richardson and Jack Hammond enabling Baker to cross for his second try, which Thomas was unable to convert.