The start of the season proper saw Skolars welcome Crusaders to the New River Stadum, adverse weather and dodgy windscreen wipers saw the start delayed by 15 minutes as Crusaders arrived late. One name in particular stood out for me on the visitors team sheet, one Patrick Ah Van. a man who played 54 times fo the New Zealand Warriors and 118 times for Widnes, scoring 91 tries while with the former Superleague team. At this level players with a lot of experience in the upper echelons of the game tend to stand out, and so it was to be. The level of officiating was noticeably different to the warm up games too.
Skolars started well and Michael Greenhalgh opened the scoring, Omaro Caro converted the try to give the home team a 6 nil lead, that would be the only time they held that lead. There were a few high shots during the match and one such saw a penalty awarded for Skolars just over the halfway line. The decision was for Caro to attempt a shot at the sticks, they were missed but the ball went dead happily.
A couple of sets later a chip over the Skolars defence was caught and a great pass by Gavin Rodden found Ah Van on the wing, he strolled over to score. The conversion couldn’t have been in a more difficult spot, but Brad Billsborough kicked a low and flat ball and it sailed over the posts.
I learnt something with the next try, Jordan Gibson scored it for Crusaders, but as he did Omari Caro received a yellow card, from my photos, it looks like he flopped onto Gibson. That saw a penalty try awarded. Now in union that sees the referee run to the posts and 6 points awarded, but in league the conversion is taken then a penalty in front of the posts, apart from the fact that this was then 8 points scored against a team I support, I like it! That’s a good reward for a penalty try!
Gibson added his second and Crusaders third just before half time, duly converted by Billsborough, the teams went in at half time with the scores on London Skolars 6 North Walers Crusaders 20.
Some of the most important things to ensure in a game of rugby league is to make sure you use your set of 6 and also to aim to avoid giving more than one set to your opponents, a penalty against Skolars had aided Crusaders in their try before half-time as they had 2 sets to play with. Happily from the perspective of this Skolars fan the 3 sets Crusaders benefited from at the start of the second half didn’t end in any points. They did end in a kick out from behind the posts, amazingly that kick out was caught by Skolars Jacob Thomas, something you don’t see very often! Skolars made their way up the pitch, but an intercepted pass saw the ball run to the half way line before a tackle was made. Roddenn combined with Ah Van again and he went over in the corner for his second.
Another kick off, this time from the halfway line of course, another ball caught by Skolars, they were making a habit of it. Crusaders were in the habit of scoring though, this time Jono Smith powered over the line, as Crusaders Tweet on the day says, ‘nobody was going to stop him near the line!”
The kick off didn’t go so well this time for Skolars and Crusaders were back over the line, with Smith being the provider to Rob Massam out on the left wing this time.
Lameck Juma got on the scorecard for Skolars next after he pounced on a grubber kick, Neil Thorman added the extras and the score was Skolars 12 Crusaders 34 after 63 minutes.
The Roddenn and and Ah Van combination came into play 3 minutes later and Ah Van had his hat-trick try. I wonder how many times those names will be mentioned in try scoring terms this season?
That unusual thing happened again from the kick off, Skolars caught their own kick, this time the end result was a try for Rob Oakley, Thorman added the extras to take Skolars to 18. Oakley added his second after a penalty gave Skolars a second set, Thorman’s kick was good and with 77 minutes on the board the score was London Skolars 24 North Wales Crusaders 38.
The visitors had the last word, Gibson kicked the ball through and Earl Hurst pounced, the successful conversion saw the match finish on London Skolars 24 North Wales Crusaders 44.