7 games in one stadium – can I label each one an event?  Well, being as this is my blog, I do believe I can!  Those who have read a few of my posts will now realise I change my rules to suit myself – great being able to make them up as I go along!

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Being an Essex girl I’m a bit ignorant of all places north of Manchester – rugby league means I do know the North West quite well, but past Manchester – not much of a clue!  I gave myself plenty of time to get to Blackpool, which meant I was awake at stupid o’clock for a Saturday.

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Turns out it doesn’t take long to get to Blackpool from Warrington – I arrived at about 10:45 – loads of time to sort my hotel and get to the ground.

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I was able to park for the duration in a secure car park for a mere £16 which was great – also great not to be in my car for 3 days – I do put in a lot of miles of my sport.

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I stayed in the Valentine Hotel – placed quite centrally it was a good choice!  I was able to drop my things off before I set off to the ground – that would be unheard of in a big chain!

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Not knowing the area I chose to travel by taxi on day one – the £8 was a bit steep but it got me there safely and in time.

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I’d bought my lunch at the services on the way – a good job because the food on offer at the ground was very poor.  It amazes me that at football grounds in particular is so incredibly unhealthy!  Pies, hotdogs, crisps and chocolate was about it!

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In reality for this little series it is going to be more of a Phlog (my new word!) – more about the photos than the writing which may be a relief for some!

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The 1st game up was the iPro Sport Cup Final – this saw the North Wales Crusaders take on the Swinton Lions.

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A bit of background on the cup (yes more words here than I’d planned) 2015 sees the first year for this new tournament – it saw 16 teams battle for a place in the final.

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It’s seen as a replacement for the popular Northern Rail Cup but is contested by Championship One clubs.

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Swinton Lions had beaten Newcastle Thunder 36 to 28 in the semi-final and North Wales Crusaders had a similarly close battle beating Oldham Roughyeds 18 to 16.

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Now I’m clearly not from the rugby league heartlands so should always want the ‘outsiders’ to win, but I have a soft spot for several of the traditional teams and Swinton Lions are one of those.  I was hoping to see them lift the cup.

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Before I write what will be a few words about the game – just as the Salford Red Devils mascot was the scariest I think I’ve seen so the Crusaders mascot was probably one of the funniest!  Basically a man in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts with a weird head on!

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Swinton started the game well, a speculative kick into the in goal area that looked like it would go dead was pounced on by Sean Robinson!  Well worth the chase!  Chris Atkin added what was a difficult 2 points from the touch line with a very impressive kick.  Atkins added another 2 points with a penalty giving Swinton an 8 point lead after 24 minutes.

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That however was to be it as far as points were concerned for Swinton – Crusaders scored a great try through Scott Turner – he literally had 3 men hanging off him as he powered over the line!  Tommy Johnson matched Atkin’s kicking prowess with a cracking kick.

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Crusaders were awarded an early penalty for reefing the ball out in the tackle – that seemed to be the 1st choice every time for the referees all weekend – it seemed they couldn’t believe someone could drop a ball!

A tough day at work
A tough day at work

The resulting kick was missed, then we had a comedy moment as two North Wales players went for the ball from the kick out – unusual to see a player take out his team mate!  The teams went in at half time with the score on Swinton Lions 8 North Wales Crusaders 6.

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The 2nd half was a close run thing, Tommy Johnson drew the scores level after converting a penalty after a high shot.  Penalties seemed to be the order of the day for a spell by Swinton and one such saw Jason Dallimore go over the line for the Crusaders after a superb flick pass by no 13 (Gary Middlehurst according to the programme)

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Tommy Johnson added another 2 points.  Swinton had good chance to pull a try back after a charge down saw them run up the pitch – a knock on a the 1st play the ball just about summed up their half.  Far too many errors to get the win.

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The score finished on Swinton Lions 8 North Wales Crusaders 14 – the team from an area more renown for it’s rugby union have a habit of winning cup finals!  An ecstatic Stephen Wild (A favourite of mine) picked up the cup!

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A hard fought game kicked off the weekend – game 1 of 7 was a good one!

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