Old Crossleyans 21
Percy Park 15
Old Crossleyans defied their lowly league position in North East One with this morale boosting win against fifth placed Percy Park, who conceded that the home side deserved it.
Three senior backs were missing from Crossleyans line-up, but this tempered by the return of influential hooker Richard Wheale after his long term ankle injury.
James Wainwright, playing again out of position this time at centre, led from the front with a captain’s performance, with the whole team responding to recent adversity with a fantastic display of gritty rugby.
Both sides tested each other from the off in an even first quarter, Crossleyans drawing first blood with scrum half Ed Cockroft’s penalty from 25 metres. Further Crocs pressure then gave him a second chance from the same distance but his kick faded wide.
The home team built on a position gained by Cockroft’s guile and No 8 Manny Riaz’s power, but conceded a penalty when close to the try line.
Percy Park used the penalty to gain position in Crocs territory and from the line out ran the ball wide into the home 22, Cockroft showing his defensive ability with a good tackle to halt progress. Park persisted, recycling across in front of the posts but they knocked on with the line begging and Crocs were able to clear.
The relief was short lived, however, Park cutting through the home midfield defence to again threaten but they well stopped by wing Will Clayton’s touchline tackle.
Crossleyans replied with hooker Wheale making a trade mark thrust to Park’s 22 metre line, centres Jack Hammond and Wainwright passing well across to full back Leigh Thomas in support but the ball just evaded his grasp with the line open.
Park tried to run out of defence but prop Andy Day gave them short shrift with a typical big stop and Crocs won a penalty for Cockroft to edge them 6-0 ahead.
Crossleyans maintained the attacking position from another good line out but Park’s long penalty pegged them back to their own 22 metre line.
From Park’s line out , a loose Crossfield pass enabled Cockroft to steal the ball and break through out to the top touchline, just keeping ahead of the chasers and crossing the try line, his subsequent conversion giving Crocs a 16 - 0 lead at half time !
Percy Park’s restart was well taken by second row Kev McGill and fed infield to centre Wainwright but his jink to the 22 metre line was stopped. The clearance kick from 10 metres out was easily charged down by the on rushing Park No 10 Thomas Turnbull for a gifted five points.
Old Crossleyans’ response was immediate, recovering their own restart on Park’s 22 metre line where quick recycling from prop Dave Moloney and back row Danny Booth fed No 10 Jones on the charge to five metres out. Fast hands found centre Hammond and a fine overhead pass missed out two colleagues but gave supporting fullback Leigh Thomas an unopposed run over the line. Cockroft‘s kick was just wide as pressure from charging opponents disturbed his aim.
The action continued to be fast and furious and within minutes of the restart the visitors won an offside penalty for full back Rutter to pull the score back to 21-8.
Kicks for position were then exchanged, wing Joe Baker running the ball out of defence, pressure being maintained with driving plays by the Crocs pack who won a penalty for offside 40 metres out.
Cockroft’s kick was low and true but hit the bar and bounced out. just evading the grasp of following up wing Will Clayton.
Percy Park mounted consistent attacks on the home line, aided by Crocs conceding a succession of penalties, which eventually saw Chris Jones yellow carded.
Fresh legs were then introduced to aid the cause. Wheale, whose return to action had been of tremendous benefit, was replaced by powerful Boj Sembi who was immediately in the thick of things.
The home defence were being put under great pressure from forward drives but they managed to frustrate Park, who resorted to a kick over to the wing on the overlap but great cover tackling by Will Clayton pushed the player into touch.
Crocs suffered again when Sembi was also yellow carded, so for a few minutes were down to 13 men. And even after Jones returned, only 14 were left to repel the last quarter onslaught exerted by the relentless Park effort.
The numbers eventually told, when their player coach James Poynton touched down close to the posts, Rutter converting to gain a losing bonus point just on the whistle.