A spirited Crusaders team were made to rue missed chances and misfortune as they opened the season away at Halifax Vandals. The build-up to the game had been one of stress and worry for Captain James Underwood as player numbers were tight. Some late night calls and desperate promises of post match beverages was enough to see Aire start with a full 15 including debut’s for Matthew Rollinson on the wing and Antony McNally at flanker.
Halifax chose to kick off up the hill with a strong cross wind meaning kickers would have to be careful in their placement throughout the game. The Crusaders started strong after receiving the kick off and made early forays into the Halifax half. Strong running from new recruit McNally and seconder rower James Young gave Aire a good platform to use the ball on a wide pitch but mistakes and bad decision making meant that the Scoreboard would only tick over once during the first half.
The score would come courtesy of Centre David Krushell who latched onto a drop off inside his own half and a caused havoc for the Vandals defensive line before finding space out wide to stretch his legs and leave the winger for dead. Fans of Krushell will not have been surprised at his ability to find the gap and the Crusaders will be hoping that he can reproduce that magic throughout the season. The conversion was missed by Fly Half Matty Jones and the first half fizzled out with more missed chances for Aire.
HT Halifax Vandals 0 v 5 Aireborough Crusaders
The second half started were the first had left off and Aire again created chances close to the Halifax try line. Notable chances included Young getting held up over the line and Jones stretching out for the line but being pulled back just short. But the next score would come against the run of play as sloppy tackling and a slow reaction from Aire allowed Halifax to move the ball wide quickly from a scrum inside their own 22 and eventually go the length of the field to score in the bottom corner with some good support play and offloads- preventing Aire from resetting their defensive line. Worst than the pain of conceding a try in such a manner was the loss of Anthony McNally who pulled up short with a hamstring injury as he tried to chase down the Vandals scorer. This left Aire down to 14 men with 25 mins to play but still in contention for the game and the call was for everyone to pull together and make up for the missing man.
Unfortunately Halifax would take full advantage of the extra person and 3 quick try’s saw them pull into a 22 - 5 lead without the Crusaders getting hold off the ball. Heads were starting to drop but strong words from experienced players like Ed Brewer, Granville Sellers and Captain Underwood saw Aire regalvanise the energies and gain some form of control in the match. A line out in Airebrough’s half saw the ball moved quickly to Jones at fly half whos long pass found centre Rob Baker who took the line on before offloading to fullback Charles Fall. Fall took the ball to the outside before releasing Krushell who had popped up on the wing and made the dash from halfway to the try line. The extras were added by Krushell himself and the Crusaders lined up for the kick off with some hope that they could get something from this game.
Halifax Vandals thought overwise and again used the man advantage against the now tired legs of the Aire defence. Another try in the bottom corner was unconverted and with less than 10 minutes on the clock it looked like Aire would fade out the game hoping not to concede any additional points. But no! The weary Crusaders once again rallied around and secure ball deep in Halifax’s half. Several scrums and line outs followed and desperate backs were calling for the ball out wide but Number 8 Mark Rollinson turned a deaf ear to the pleas from out wide and instead used his strong legs to push himself and several vandals defenders over the try line to end the game.
FT Halifax Vandals 27 - 19 Aireborough Crusaders
Overall its hard to criticise the effort of the players that played and it showed that quality is not an issue for the Aireborough Crusaders but quantity is. Looking at the positives, Aire looked dangerous whenever they were on the ball and on another day could easily have been several scores ahead by half time. But today was not our day and we must move on with the confidence that no matter who pulls on the shirt, we can still compete against anyone in our league.
MOM - Honourable mentions go out to Alex Waugh who showed great bravery and technique in defence, repeatedly bring down opponents significantly bigger than himself. Debutant Matthew Rollinson performed admirably on the wing, we look forward to maybe seeing him in an Aireborough shirt alongside his Dad again in the future. Anthony McNally also showed his quality and experience in an impressive debut for the Crusaders. Hopefully his injury that forced him off the field is not to serious so his hard running and loud voice can been witnessed again on the pitch soon. But the award this week is split between 2 players, the Vandals team had difficulty all day stopping James Young with the ball and nominated him for the after match pint but it’s hard to ignore a player that scores 2 try’s that started inside his own half and so David Krushell shares the award with James.
Next week Aire host Castleford 2nds at Fort Nunroyd, the hope will be that the quality once again shines through but this time backed up by a few more numbers to help those tired legs towards the end. Kick off is 3pm with meet time and team to be announced later in the week.