By Ryan Gould at the Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium
North Wales Crusaders commenced their 2013 campaign with a resounding success over Oldham Roughyeds in the Northern Rail Cup.
Both sides knew that this fixture was of high importance if they wish to take part in the Northern Rail Bowl Final later in the year, and that was clear to see early on as both sides got into a real arm-wrestle with defences on top.
But once North Wales clicked into gear, there was no stopping them and they made their intentions clear by finishing off the Roughyeds in ruthless fashion.
Crusaders handed competitive debuts to Gary Middlehurst, who was fantastic throughout, Stuart Reardon, Phil Braddish, Ryan MacDonald and Steve McDermott, while Oldham also started a number of their off-season recruits and brought in four dual-registered players from partnership club Salford City Reds.
After their early dominance, the Roughyeds finally opened the scoring through the dual-registered Jon Ford, after a fine cut-out pass from Jamie Dallimore set him up in the corner.
Jono Smith replied for North Wales, though, as he crashed over from close range, but Adam Files took the visitors back in front with a replica of Smith’s earlier effort.
But from that point onwards, Crusaders were in the driving seat and made the most of any opportunities that came their way.
Middlehurst’s grubber bounced off an Oldham man and fell in the hands of Jamie Durbin, who finished under the posts, and then Durbin switched to provider as he set up Massam in the corner.
And the free-flow scoring continued after the break, with Christiaan Roets, who didn’t manage to get on the scoresheet once last term, touching down in the corner, before Smith grabbed his second and Middlehurst went over for the try of the afternoon.
Middlehurst broke forward with numbers in support, where he found Durbin, who was halted short of the line before he flung out an audacious offload back to Middlehurst to score on his debut.
Another dual-registered player from Salford, Niall Evalds, reduced the deficit slightly, as Samuel found him with a lovely flick pass as he hit the line.
However, North Wales finished on a high after Brennan and Reardon, returning to Wrexham after his spell with the old Super League club, went over for tries in the final minutes to round off an impressive victory.
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS
Tries: Smith 25, 45, Durbin 35, Massam 38, Roets 42, Middlehurst 48, Brennan 68, Reardon 80
Goals: Johnson 8/8
Tries: Ford 15, Files 31, Evalds 66
Goals: Dallimore 0/3
Referee: Clint Sharrad
Man of the Match: Gary Middlehurst – the second rower was fantastic on debut, assisting in a number of tries and finishing off the the finest score of the afternoon, which he also happened to start.
Picture courtesy of Shane Swannick