John Mooney: West Hull vs Thatto Heath Crusaders
After narrow defeats in the Challenge Cup and Challenge Trophy, Thatto Heath made it third time lucky for the season at the West Hull Community Park running out worthy 24-20 winners. The Crusaders weathered a second-half storm which saw Wests fail to capitalise on fine approach play but, without Scott Partis to guide them, had no cutting edge.
Wests were first on the scoresheet when Nathan Powley produced one of his specials from acting-halfback with Ryan Wilson tagging on the extras. They suffered an early blow when their influential hooker had to retire from the game with an eye injury then another when a poor defensive lapse allowed Crusaders' classy full-back Dan Birkett to follow his own kick and score close enough for him to convert. Ryan Langton then sliced through the visitor's defence for an unconverted try to put Wests back in front but it was short-lived as Birkett went in again following a flowing move. Josh NIcklin restored the home side's lead after the best move of the game and he converted himself then Kieran Jones pulled off a brilliant tackle to prevent powerful centre Matty Norton crossing to leave Wests 16-12 up at the break.
The second half belonged to the Crusaders with their defence taking everything Wests could throw at them before speedy Kiwi winger Louis Taylor, a GB Universities sevens international, crossed on the hour then added another with six minutes to go, Birkett converting both, the latter from the touchline. Jones scored a consolation for Wests on the hooter but it was a case of missed opportunities.
Ryan Steen and the returning Bobby Tyson-Wilson toughed it out along with Jacob Moore, who tackled himself to a standstill, while Adam Prendergast and man of the match Adam Hesketh led by example up front for the Crusaders for who Birkett and Norton were always dangerous.