Injury mars Thomas debut

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The Independent Online

Gareth Thomas lasted little more than 30 minutes in his rugby league debut at Wrexham last night before going off with what looked like concussion.

"I'm fine now. I wanted to get back on at the end," said Thomas after the Crusaders' victory. "It's really and truly a great game to play."

"He got a couple of bangs, but to do what he's done in seven days is a fabulous effort," said the Crusaders coach, Brian Noble. "I'm confident he'll be a super player for us."

There was none of the old-fashioned, easy introduction from the bench for the Welshman. Instead, he was thrown right in at the deep end, starting on the right wing, with a good proportion of the crowd there to see how he performed. The first signs, though, were not propitious; on his first carry, Thomas lost possession in the course of a painfully slow play-the-ball.

To his credit and despite needing frequent running repairs, he showed an obvious appetite for involvement after that, even spending a surprising amount of time at dummy-half. It was, however, the more seasoned rugby league skills of Lincoln Withers and Michael Witt that set up the only try of the first half, for Jason Chan.

In the 32nd minute Thomas carried the ball into the tackle, but keeled over after playing the ball and was helped off with what looked like severe concussion. Welcome to Super League.

However, Witt extended Crusaders' lead with a penalty after a high tackle by Jamal Fakir was punished, and with or without Thomas they looked relatively secure against an uninspired French outfit.

But the visitors made their mark on proceedings when Olivier Elima did well to pluck a kick out of the air to touch down early in the second half, with Grégory Mounis stepping up to add the goal.

Crusaders' response to having their lead trimmed to two points was to turn the screw, but despite a long spell of pressure, they failed to produce any points. Their breakthrough came just 10 minutes from time, however, when Peter Lupton, the home side's outstanding player, ran on to Withers' pass to plunge over.

Crusaders: Kear; Thomas, Martin, Mellars, Dyer; Lupton, Witt; O'Hara, Withers, Bryant, Chan, Hauraki, Trimarchi. Substitutes used: Thackray, Flower, Youngquest, Winternstein.

Catalan Dragons: Guasch; Bell, Raguin, Pelo, Stacul; Sa, McGuire; Ferriol, Bentley, Carlaw, Elima, Gossard, Johnson. Substitutes used: Guisset, Mounis, Fakir, Gigot.

Referee: T Alibert (Toulouse).