By Ryan Gould at Leigh Sports Village
Ian Watson was victorious in his testimonial match as his Lions side defeated North Wales Crusaders at Leigh Sports Village.
It was an even contest for most of the 80 minutes, but Swinton, whenever they needed to, showed more composure in their set-plays to produce the openings in most of their tries.
North Wales Crusaders kept on hitting back whenever they fell behind, but Swinton always looked fairly comfortable, despite Crusaders having several great opportunities in the second half.
Crusaders opened the scoring through Andy Gorski, who was set up by Durbin after Sheen did excellently to keep the ball alive with an offload to Christiaan Roets on the right flank.
But the Lions soon hit back and raced into a three-try lead. Firstly, David Mills went over and then ex-Crusader Liam Hulme, who has signed from Warrington Wolves, showed great strength to touch down underneath the sticks.
Hawkyard was next on the scoresheet, weaving across the line to score next to the posts, and Watkins grabbed the fourth as he collected a loose carry after Massam failed to claim Ian Watson’s high bomb.
However, North Wales hit back through Massam as he powered his way over in the corner, and if it wasn’t for some great tracking back by the Swinton defensive line, trialist Craig White may have scored an interception try on his debut.
Whatever North Wales Crusaders head coach Clive Griffiths said to his troupes at half time, it certainly came to effect – Toby Adamson went over in the left corner as his side looked to get themselves back into the game.
North Wales Crusaders were gathering momentum and starting to take control of the match, and when Stuart Reardon broke down the right, with both Roets and Craig White in support, it looked as though they would pull back the deficit to within one converted try.
Reardon took the option to go alone and was tackled short of the line. Although North Wales gained a scrum for a charge down in the next set, that was the end of Crusaders’ period of sustained pressure on the Lions.
And Swinton soon turned on the pace – Chris Clarke’s exemplary grubber kick was touched down by Martin Ainscough and Andy Ballard finished off a flowing move in the left corner after Swinton had received a dubious penalty as North Wales’ Gorski was penalised for a voluntary tackle.
The game sizzled out in the final 20 minutes with the game out of Crusaders’ reached, but both sides continued to create chances, and once the final hooter went Ian Watson received a fantastic reception when he departed the field after his testimonial.
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS
1. Tommy Johnson
2. Christiaan Roets
3. Stuart Reardon
4. Leon Brennan
5. Rob Massam
6. Jamie Durbin
7. Billy Sheen
8. Simon Stephens
17. Dave McConnell
10. Phil Bradish
11. Toby Adamson
12. Andy Gorski
13. Jonno Smith
14. Lewys Weaver
15. Ryan McDonald
16. Adam Bowman
9. Lee Hudson
19. Owain Brown
22. Craig White
Tries: Gorski 6, Massam 33, Adamson 42
Goals: Johnson 1/3