Thursday, 29 March 2012

Look Out Here Come: North Wales Crusaders

Wales Yesterday: L-R: Oggy, Oggy, Oggy, Oggy and... er...
Sunday sees Hornets return to the Racecourse Ground Wrexham to play re-booted former Super-League expansion brand North Wales Crusaders.

Having flown Icarus-like too close to the SL sun, the former great-Welsh-hopes find their (three) feathers singed and starting from scratch under the auspices of Welsh RL stalwart Clive Griffiths.

Currently shoring-up CC1 with none from two and a points difference almost twice as bad as Gateshead (having shipped 92 points in two games), they'll be eager to get their… er… crusade underway sometime soon.

When Hornets played at the Racecourse in a pre-season friendly, 'The Cru' stung us for 50 points and the huge home support celebrated like they'd won the Challenge Cup. I did tell the bloke in front of me that we did have 10 U23's in the side and six of them were playing out of position, but did he listen? No - he just kept gibbering 'whaddabou'tha'then' like Max Boyce on speed.

Thus far in the league they took Barrow to the wire losing 24-26 in Round 1, but their bubble was pricked in Round 2 as Skolars rammed 66 points through them (it was 40-nil at half time).

However, Crusaders come into Sunday's game on the back of a decent Challenge Cup win over Toulouse, so will be re-energised for the league campiagn on the back of some regained confidence.

Griffiths says: "The important thing is for us to build on our excellent performance when we take on Rochdale this Sunday at the Racecourse. We can't be one of those teams who has a good game one week and a bad one the next. It's a long term process and we're looking to get better and better as time goes on."

And he has a realistic view of their friendly win pre-season: "I'm not even going to look at that game at all. I'm going to look at the matches they played recently as the team Rochdale have got now isn't even 50% of the side who played against us in the friendly. It's a new centre partnership, new full-back, new wingers and different combinations throughout."

Indeed, Griffiths hinted that we was going to make some additions to his own squad to add 'experience'.

The Crusaders squad is a decent mix of good quality former conference talent (both NCL and RFL), Championship experience and former academy/U23 youth. It's a work-hard unit with few big names, but stand-outs include former Swinton Prop Chis Tyrer, Billy Sheen (ex-Leigh) and former Hornet Jamie Durbin - the latter most famous for defending out on the flanks because he's not tall enough for the rides at Alton Towers.

Certainly one interesting element of the New Crusaders is that they seem to have retained a sizeable chunk of their former Super League following - and silencing the vocal home support will be top of most visitors' to-do lists this season. So get yourself over there on Sunday - it's a much, much shorter drive than Whitehaven.

Most importantly - don't forget that it's a 2.30 kick off.