A strong St Helens Select side beat North Wales Crusaders 38-26 in a pre-season clash at Queensway Stadium in Wrexham.
The Crusaders started brightly, as just three minutes in Ryan Smith put pressure on the Saints defence with a kick to the corner. However, Gavin Conroy couldn’t get to the ball and possession changed hands.
Matty Smith then looked to test the home side’s defence with a high-kick towards the wing, but it was dealt with well by Kenny Baker who gathered the ball before offloading to Dale Bloomfield.
With 19 minutes gone, the visitors opened the scoring as Rob Fairclough set up Thomas Nisbet who ran the ball over the line.
The hosts came close to responding almost immediately as Baker offloaded to Bloomfield who was kept out by a strong Saints defence.
However, it wasn’t long before the Crusaders did find a response. With 24 minutes on the clock, Alex Thompson offloaded to Gavin Conroy who beat the Saints defence to score in the corner.
As an entertaining affair continued, the Saints began to take the game away from the Crusaders as they crossed the line three times in the final ten minutes of the first-half.
The first came via a great solo effort from Adam Swift who broke down the wing before out-running the Crusaders defence on his way over the line.
He was quickly followed by John Hutchings who was sent over in the corner by Cameron Brown, taking the score to 4-18.
The Saints capped off a strong ten minutes just before the hooter sounded as Smith found a gap in the Crusaders’ defence which he darted through to score.
The second-half scoring was opened just two minutes in as Baker made use of a ball steal as he crossed the line, reducing the deficit to 14 points.
However, the visitors responded quickly as Swift picked up a loose ball and ran from inside his own half to score.
Moments later the visitors were in again as Swift found a gap in the corner to complete his hat-trick, and extend Saint’s lead to 10-34.
The home side responded soon after as Callan Beckett passed out wide to Conroy who leapt over in the corner for his second of the afternoon.
As the game entered its final ten minutes, the Crusaders scored their fourth of the afternoon through Alex Davidson who powered his way over the whitewash from close range.
Though that wasn’t the final action of the game, as Saints hit back through Ben Morris who picked up a dropped ball and broke before running the ball across the line.
However, the hosts ensured that they had the final word as Joe Bate stormed through the Saints defence to score, bringing the final score to 26-38.
Tries: Conroy (24, 62), Baker (42), Davidson (71), Bate (79)
Goals: Johnson (3/5)
Tries: Nisbet (18), Swift (32, 52, 58), Hutchings (34), Smith (39), Morris (74)
Goals: Fairclough (4/4), Smith (1/3)
Ref: M. Griffiths
1. Tommy Johnson; 2. Gavin Conroy, 20. Alex Thompson, 17. Kenny Baker, 5. Dale Bloomfield; 6. Steven Roper, 7. Ryan Smith; 8. Jonny Walker, 9. Lee Hudson, 10. Warren Thompson, 11. Jack Houghton, 25. Jordan Case, 13. Ryan Millington.
Subs: 3. Callan Beckett, 12. Simon Atherton, 15. Joe Bate, 16. Alex Davidson, 19. Aaron Moore, 22. Brad Brennan, 26. Alex Trumper, 29. Billy Sheen, **. Liam Hulme.
1. Thomas Nisbet; 2. Adam Swift, 3. Cameron Brown, 4. Matthew Costello, 5. John Hutchings; 6. Matty Smith, 7. Rob Fairclough; 8. Luke Douglas, 20. Aaron Smith, 10. Liam Cooper, 11. Chris Follin, 12. Ben Morris, 14. Josh Eaves.
Subs: 16. Alex Eckley, 17. Kian Horridge, 18 Jack Welsby, 21. Jorge Lewtas, 22. Callum Hazzard.
Thank you to www.northwalescrusaders.co.uk for this report.