NORTHERN RAIL BOWL FINAL
LONDON SKOLARS 24 NORTH WALES CRUSADERS 42
PAUL ENGLISH, The Shay, Saturday 20th July 2013
North Wales Crusaders became the first side to have their name inscribed on the Northern Rail Bowl as they overpowered London Skolars in the final 15 minutes of an otherwise closely-contested match.
“I’ve just said that I’ve had some very proud moments with Wales and Great Britain but that’s got to be up there because 18 months ago there was no club,” said Crusaders head coach Clive Griffiths afterwards.
“We got together, put a few names together and 90 per cent of the team has stuck together, we’ve not dual registered anybody and it’s been real teamwork, togetherness and we’ve worked hard.
“I just can’t express how delighted I an today, the journey over the last 18 to 19 months has been a rocky one; we took a few hammerings last year but to have come out at the other end.”
The Crusaders were given a rocky ride by the Skolars, the London side matching the Welsh side throughout the first 40 minutes that had opened with North Wales held in check in their own half. London skipper Dave Williams lost ball in possession to give the Crusaders their first opportunity but it took the favourites 14 minutes to break the deadlock.
After Gary Middlehurst had gone close Dave McConnell’s sharp pass sent fullback Tommy Johnson over for a try that he also converted.
It became apparent that two Skolars forwards Erjon Dollapi and Sam Wellings were wearing shirts numbered 27; Dollapi crashing over from a Mike Bishay pass before changing into a number 31 shirt.
Andy Moulsdale was already having a positive influence on the Crusaders performance and whilst his kick to the corner looked to be too strong the persistence of centre Christiaan Roets was rewarded with a try after consultation with video referee Ian Smith. Moulsdale then neatly dropped a pass into Jono Smith’s hands for the sub to go close but it was the replacement’s pass, in similar fashion, that opened the Skolars defence, Moulsdale collecting to score.
Another sub, London forward Louis Robinson cut the deficit when he went over after Dylan Skee, a major influence on the Skolars performance, turned the ball back inside.
The try of the game soon followed.
A magical break from Mike Worrincy down the right was supported by Alex Hurst and John Paxton, with the Skolars making metres up the right touchline. From the tackle the Skolars sent the ball to the opposite touchline, with Ade Adebisi sneaking in by the left corner flag.
The Crusaders lost a clearly shaken fullback Johnson but as Griffiths explained regrouped in the interval.
“At half-time we had a good talk; Tommy Johnson was out on his feet and came back and that shows the want and the need to do well in this club and in the second half we’ve just conceded one try.”
London lost playmaker Andy McLean for the second half as their assistant coach Marcus Tobin explained: “Andy McLean was out of the game late in the first half – he couldn’t function and as a result Joe [Mbu] had to be creative with substitutions as the game progressed.”
Soon after the restart Bishay kicked a 40/20 that was nearer to a 40/one but the Skolars mishandled on the first tackle; it stayed scrappy for a while and eight minutes into the second half a ball pinch, and a further ten-metre penalty for dissent, saw Skee kick the Skolars into a two-point lead.
Perhaps that was a turning point as the kick-off rebounded off the goalpost, allowing Crusaders to put pressure on at the opposite end; Jamie Dallimore was held-up and then the Crusaders scrum-half and Robinson were spoken to by referee Joe Cobb after a small skirmish.
Robinson was then tackled in goal as the Crusaders pressure continued and eventually told when a superb Dallimore pass saw Middlehurst fend off the Skolars defence for a try that edged the Crusaders in front.
It took the Crusaders ten minutes to add to their tally. Owain Brown was stopped short and Dave McConnell, from dummy-half, stepped and swivelled over.
A superb tackle by Martyn Smith stopped Dallimore but the Crusaders were in the ascendency now and added to their tally, with Rob Massam continuing his fine try-scoring form this season when touching down in the corner.
McConnell fed Steve Bannister who broke through some weak London defence to give McConnell the pass for his second try and, with Johnson’s conversion, edged the North Wales side 36-18 in front with ten minutes left.
Ade Adebisi was stretchered off before good hands from Rob Thomas paved the way for the remaining “˜27′, Sam Wellings, to grab a consolation try.
Johnson then kicked a penalty and with just a couple of minutes remaining Alex Hurst was placed on report; the Crusaders opted not to take two at a later penalty, Smith offloading for Dan Birkett to cross for a try on full-time.
With Joe Mbu accompanying Adebisi to hospital, Skolars assistant coach Marcus Tobin stood in at the post-match press conference.
“I think that in the last quarter of the game we lost some composure and that we started falling off the tackles; they started to get a roll-on at the play-the-ball and we lost a bit of energy and the game went away from us,” he said.
“But for the first hour of the game we played some good Rugby League and it is just unfortunate that we couldn’t sustain it right to the end.”
GAMESTAR: Andy Moulsdale – that battle between the Crusaders skipper and influential Skolars halfback Dylan Skee was one the memorable highlights of the contest.
GAMEBREAKER: Dave McConnell’s second try tipped the scales 18 points in the Crusaders favour with just ten minutes to go.
1 James Anthony
4 John Paxton
29 Alex Hurst
3 Joe Price
5 Ade Adebisi
26 Andy McLean
7 Dylan Skee
27 Erjon Dollapi
33 Mike Bishay
10 David Williams
27 Sam Wellings
12 Mike Worrincy
13 Olly Purslow
Subs (all used)
8 Rob Thomas
9 Martyn Smith
16 Louis Robinson
32 Jamaine Wray
Tries: Dollapi (20), Robinson (32), Adebisi (34), Wellings (74)
Goals: Skee 4/5
On report: Hurst (74) – incident in tackle
1 Tommy Johnson
32 Dan Birkett
17 Stuart Reardon
3 Christiaan Roets
5 Rob Massam
6 Andy Moulsdale
33 Jamie Dallimore
8 Johnny Walker
14 Dave McConnell
21 Simon Stephens
12 Gary Middlehurst
29 Stephen Bannister
11 Andy Gorski
Subs (all used)
9 Lee Hudson
13 Jono Smith
16 Ryan MacDonald
30 Owain Brown
Tries: Johnson (14), Roets (24), Moulsdale (30), Middlehurst (53), McConnell (63, 70), Massam (68), Birkett (80)
Goals: Johnson 5/9
Rugby Leaguer & League Express Men of the Match
Skolars: Dylan Skee
Crusaders: Andy Moulsdale
Penalty count: 7-11
Referee: Joe Cobb
SCORING SEQUENCE: 0-6, 6-6, 6-12, 6-16, 12-16, 16-16, 18-16, 18-20, 18-26, 18-30, 18-36, 24-36, 24-38, 24-42