Leeds make Crusaders' bad week even worse

Celtic Crusaders 0 Leeds Rhinos 68
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The Independent Online

The worst week of the Celtic Crusaders' short history saw them suffer their heaviest defeat of the season. The margin was big enough to take Leeds back to the top of Super League.

Without five injured players and with six more absent, awaiting deportation for visa irregularities that may have long-term consequences for the club, the Crusaders – playing at the Newport ground which will be their base from next season – were hopelessly outgunned.

At the end of a week like the Crusaders have had, probably the last thing they needed was the arrival of a near-full strength Leeds side, albeit one delayed on the motorway by traffic on its way to a U2 concert in Cardiff. Given the task of holding them up further were a side featuring six young Welshmen, two making debuts under the most demanding circumstances.

They started with guts and one of the new boys, Elliot Kear, made a try-saving tackle on Lee Smith. However, Leeds scored on the next play, through Keith Senior. Danny McGuire then set up tries on both wings, a 28th of the season for Ryan Hall followed by one for Scott Donald. Rob Burrow's break teed up Brent Webb, before Senior and then Jamie Peacock went over. Kevin Sinfield became the second player to kick 1,000 goals for Leeds. The first was the legendary Welshman Lewis Jones.

"Justice for the Saders Six," chanted the home fans, but there was only rough justice on offer from Leeds, for whom Webb rounded off the first half.

The Crusaders kept Leeds scoreless for the first 17 minutes of the second half, until Peacock completed a double. Burrow and Webb, with his hat-trick try, then took Leeds past the half-century, before Kear illustrated the Crusaders' spirit by tackling Donald into touch when he looked certain to score. There was cause for some pride in the attitude thus revealed, but Jamie Jones-Buchanan dived over for the 11th Leeds try, Matt Diskin made it a dozen and Sinfield landed his seventh goal.

"We are hurting, but we have to build for the future," said the Crusaders' coach, John Dixon, as he reflected on the events of a traumatic week. "That started today. Leeds were fantastic. They played at a speed we haven't seen before, but there was a period in the second half where we showed our resolve."

Celtic Crusaders: Kear; Blackwood, Chalk, Chan, Tyrer; White, M Smith; O'Hara, Budworth, James, Flower, Bryant, Beasley. Substitutes used: Tangata-Toa, Davies, Dudson, Mills.

Leeds Rhinos: Webb; Donald, L Smith, Senior, Hall; McGuire, Burrow; Leuluai, Diskin, Peacock, Lauitiiti, Jones-Buchanan, Sinfield. Substitutes used: Bailey, Burgess, Worrall, Watkins.

Referee: T Alibert (France).