Top-flight rugby league in Wales died with more of a whimper than a roar yesterday. Crusaders' last Super League match at Wrexham was their chance to at least depart with a defiant gesture, having already won twice since the announcement they will not be in the competition next season.
But spirit and determination can only stretch so far and the doomed Crusaders did not have enough of either to hold back an impressive and ruthless Hull, intent as they were on cementing their play-off place and equalling their hosts' worst defeat of the season in the process.
It improved after full-time, with a demonstration on the pitch of the genuine warmth the club has engendered among its fans – but that came a little too late. "The fans have been extremely good all year," said their coach, Iestyn Harris, soon to be unveiled as the new assistant manager at Wigan. "The result was pretty hefty in the end, but the commitment was there."
Crusaders could have hardly made a worse start to their farewell appearance, conceding two tries in the first six minutes. The first came after Michael Witt was penalised for a high tackle, Joe Westerman delaying his pass cleverly to send Craig Fitzgibbon through. Ryan O'Hara lost the ball for the second, with Westerman again prominent in putting Mark O'Meley over. More self-inflicted problems – this time Clinton Schifcofske's petulant dissent – led to a try from Richard Whiting, before one of Danny Houghton's telling breaks paved the way for Fitzgibbon's second.
Lee Radford got over from close range, while the outstanding Westerman provided the pass for Houghton to complete the damage in a pitifully one-sided first half. The small but vocal crowd that has taken Crusaders to its heart finally got something to cheer when Elliot Kear went the length of the field – only for him to be brought back for a knock-on.
There was only token resistance by the time Jordan Turner made it three tries in six minutes. The home side finally got on the score-sheet through Vince Mellars after 53 minutes, but Sam Obst was Hull's next scorer. Tony Martin mustered a reply that was hailed as though it signified salvation. Reality intruded again through Obst, before Peter Lupton had the dubious honour of scoring the last Super League try at Wrexham.
Crusaders Schifcofske; Reardon, Martin, Mellars, Kear; Witt, White; James, Withers, O'Hara, Cahill, Winterstein, Lupton. Substitutes used Flower, Williams, Tansey, Moore.
Hull Phelps; Sharp, Turner, Whiting, Briscoe; Westerman, Horne; O'Meley, Houghton, Moa, Tickle, Manu, Fitzgibbon. Substitutes used Radford, Washbrook, Lauaki, Obst.
Referee P Bentham (Warrington).