Crusaders seek champion finish

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The Independent Online

There might be only pride and prestige to play for when Salford and the Celtic Crusaders meet in the National League 1 Grand Final at Warrington tomorrow, but that could be enough to ensure a gripping contest.

There is no Super League place at stake, with both clubs knowing that they already have licences to play at the elite level next season. Both admit, however, that their campaigns will be incomplete if they do not go up as champions.

The clubs have won twice each in their meetings this season, but the recent advantage lies with the Crusaders, who have won the last two by handsome margins.

"I'd say that had no relevance," said the Celtics coach, John Dixon. "What we know is that it's going to be a quality game between the sides that came first and second in the competition." Salford's Shaun McRae described Celtics as "easily the best team we've met this season".

Both teams arrive at the Halliwell Jones Stadium with an astonishingly clean bill of health. Only Salford's Steve Nash and the Celtics' Gareth Dean will miss out, making this last meeting as lower division clubs a fair test of their current strength.

The Crusaders also have a major role in the proceedings early on at Warrington, their Colts taking on Bramley Buffaloes in the RL Conference final. That combination of young Welsh players, almost all of them new to the game, has been a real success story this season.

Bramley still aspire to return to the professional ranks and will be looking to underline their credentials tomorrow. After them come the teams with most to play for. With Gateshead already crowned NL2 Champions, Doncaster and Oldham will be contesting the other promotion place.