Bradford Northern. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22
WITH the wind and rain swirling round a small, exposed ground, and facing unfancied opposition who tore into them with tigerish determination, Bradford Northern could have been forgiven for thinking that they had arrived in Batley and not Barnet yesterday. Before they had a chance to get their bearings, London Crusaders had gone into a 10-point lead but, thanks in no small part to the Great Britain centre Paul Newlove, Northern eventually made their superior status count and it is their name that goes into today's draw for the Regal Trophy semi-finals.
Yet there was no dishonour in defeat for the Crusaders and the takings from their biggest crowd at Barnet Copthall Stadium - 1,876 - will help the battle for survival of London's only professional league club. But it is on the field that the future looks brightest for them. Until Newlove struck with a typically powerful run to the line seconds before half-time, the home side had dominated the match and, as well as barely missing a tackle, they had played most of the attractive rugby, their handling defying the atrocious conditions. Even in the second half, when Bradford had the wind behind them, the Crusaders had their chances, and the visitors' final, clinching try was very much against the run of play.
It was easy to see why the Crusaders are challenging for promotion from the Second Division. They are excellently coached by the New Zealander Tony Gordon, who has his well-drilled team playing with a real sense of purpose and adventure. And in the half-backs Troy Rugless and Mark Riley, the experienced Neville Ramsey at loose forward and their tall Australian centre, Scott Roskell, they have players capable of playing with the big boys.
It was Roskell who supplied the dream start. After just two minutes he burst through the defence and soon afterwards he did his own spot of Sunday trading by selling Northern's debutant full-back, Shaun Austerfield, an outrageous dummy to touch down beneath the sticks. John Gallagher added the goal and with eight minutes gone, Crusaders were 10-0 ahead.
They were unlucky not to add to their advantage but when Newlove exploited some rare slack tackling to make the half-time score 10-6, it began to look ominous for the home side. The introduction of the veteran David Heron was crucial for Northern and he was a pivotal figure in Newlove's second try and the score by Karl Fairbank which put his side ahead for the first time. Still the Crusaders threatened, but a period of heavy pressure was ended when Fairbank broke clear from near his own line and supplied Gerald Cordle, who ran the ball in from 50 yards.
London Crusaders: Gallagher; Ekoku, Roskell, Walker, Johnson; Rugless (Michalski, 70), Riley; Whitely (Smith, 50), Carter, Stewart, Rosolen, Michalski (Rotherham, 50), Ramsey.
Bradford Northern: Austerfield; Cordle, Shelford, Newlove, Kebbie (Heron, 48); Watson, Fox; Afoa (Grayshon, 48), Clark, Hamer, Powell, Dixon, Fairbank.
Referee: J Holdsworth (Kippax).