Never-say-die Crocs leave it late before sealing vital victory

Old Crossleyans 31

Wheatley Hills 29

ED Cockroft held his nerve superbly to land a late conversion from Leigh Thomas’s try as Old Crossleyans confounded all the odds with a magnificent victory over the side who started the day second in North One East.

The whole team, minus seven senior players, exceeded all expectations with debutante Billy Hammond, the fourth member of the family to turn out for the senior side, belying his youth and inexperience exhibiting skill and an attitude beyond his years.

However, Crocs remain trouble with the sides immediately above them also winning.

Wheatley Hills took a quick lead with a penalty by centre Guy Townsley but Crocs shrugged this off and right wing Billy Hammond was hauled down just short.

From the five metre lineout Crocs spun the ball wide for centre Jack Hammond to half break, passing inside to the supporting left wing Thomas but the ball went to ground with the line open.

Crossleyans went close again when good line out ball from second row James Cooper sped across the backline, Jack Hammond again making the half break but the back flipped pass just evaded brother Billy with a try begging.

Crocs were then offside and Townsley kicked his second penalty against the run of play. Crocs attempted a reply, a touchline penalty from scrum half Cockroft just failing.

Hooker Richard Wheale stormed through but was just stopped short. He was on hand again after good recycling, winning a penalty which Ott tapped and went with the pack backing up but the ball was lost.

James Wainwright then broke but the two Hammonds were unable to capitalise with the line open, However, a penalty was won and Crocs opted for the lineout. Another off the top catch by Cooper started the backs on another foray, Jack Hammond breaking through but dropping the ball on the line.

Wheatley now attacked with player/coach Dave Scully kicking through, the home fullback partnership of Joe Baker and Thomas clearing the danger.

Crocs were dictating the game with Jack Hammond and Wainwright going close before Cockroft struggled through the tackles to touch down near the post, his conversion edging his side 7-6 ahead.

The opposition redoubled their efforts and from a quick lineout 30 metres from the home line, Scully started a sweeping backs move to the bottom right wing, quick centre Mikey Hayward cutting inside Crocs’ cover to touch down wide out.

Wheatley now had the bit between their teeth and attacked strongly. A key tackle by Wainwright prevented a breakthrough but Hills won a penalty 40 metres from the home posts, Townsley atoning for his earlier miss with a great kick to give his side a 14-7 lead at the break.

Crocs continued their good work and when Wheatley knocked on No 8 Manny Riaz broke and fed Cockroft, who gave Billy Hammond a charge up the wing. From the resulting maul Wheatley’s No 6 was yellow carded and Cockroft’s penalty pulled the score back to 14-10.

Hills attacked again but Jack Hammond stole the ball on his own 22 metre line and made a half break, off loading to Neil Richardson, then taking the return pass and beating three tackles with Cockroft and Billy Hammond in support.

The trio advanced upfield and, with only one Hills forward retreating in defence, Hammond passed him with ease to score at the posts, Cockroft adding the two points for a 17-14 lead.

Wheatley were again shaken into action and swift passing along the backs found a big forward in space but home lock Kev McGill closed him down quickly, causing a spilled ball and a certain score.

Wheatley criss-crossed the field trying to prise open Crocs defence and again Scully made the telling move with a grubber kick behind the defenders over the line. Crocs were adamant that Thomas touched down but the referee gave the score to Hills’ No 11 Chris Blessed.

Townsley followed that with a straight penalty to make it 22-17 ahead with 10 minutes remaining

Wheatley introduced replacement No 8 Gareth Burns, who had scored four tries against Crocs in last season’s away fixture. However, he was red carded within minutes after blatantly flattening Gareth Ott in front of the referee.

The penalty brought a kick to the corner and the lineout. The ball was lost then recovered and fed wide to midfield on the 22 metre line for Wainwright to make his trademark jinking break, followed by the whole pack. The ball reached Ott, who stepped inside the cover to stretch over and score in the corner, Cockroft’s great touchline conversion brought it back to 24-22.

Wheatley attacked from the restart with Ian Barker scoring near the posts, but Crocs recovered their own restart in midfield, Ott deftly feeding fullback Baker who found Thomas with a perfect inside pass to score under the posts to level, Cockroft nervelessly adding the goal.