COACH Chris Jones believes North One East survival shouldn’t be a problem for Old Crossleyans if they continue to show their true colours in the final five matches of the campaign - and his Old Brodleians counterpart Ian Armitage agrees with him.
The Crocs avenged two early-season defeats at the hands of their Halifax rivals with a dominant display for more than an hour of Saturday’s derby in front of a crowd in excess of 400 at Broomfield.
Their four-point return helped them climb out of the bottom three on a day when other results went in their favour. They were left to rue a four-try bonus point which got away - Jack Hammond lost the ball over the line early in the second half - but it was still a satisfying afternoon’s work for the home side.
Jones, unable to play after having his appendix out, is delighted to have been asked to stay at Crocs’ helm for next season.
He took more satisfaction from the iron will his men showed in the last 15 minutes, when Brods belatedly threw everything at the home defence, than his side’s earlier superiority.
Armitage, whose side are still on course for a very creditable top six finish, was bitterly disappointed with the outcome but would be happy to face Crocs in league action again in 2011-2012.
“If they play like that until the end of the season they will definitely stay up,” he said.
“They showed a lot of passion, especially in defence.
“These are the kind of games we want to be playing - we don’t want to be going up to the north east every other week.”
The game unfolded as many neutrals may have envisaged. Crocs, close to full strength and comfortable on their own postage-stamp sized ground, bossed the set piece and built a match-winning lead with the help of 21 points from centre Neil Richardson.
Brods, lacking some key men and already with half an eye on next season, were forced to live off scraps of possession while Armitage, not one to complain about referees, felt regular Broomfield visitor Andy Baker got plenty of decisions wrong.
A Crocs driving maul, which made 30 metres almost straight from the kick off, set the tone for the afternoon.
Richardson twice kicked them in front in the first quarter only for visiting back rower Ollie Akroyd to reply, on the first occasion after an interception from stand off Nick O’Connor which might have brought a try for Richard Holborough.
Gareth Ott made a couple of half breaks for the home side while Luke Scrimshaw, O’Connor and confident young fullback Tom Booth all did their bit to keep Brods in the hunt.
Crocs went 11-6 up early in the second quarter when they mounted pressure wide on the right before slick handling across the field enabled winger Leigh Thomas to touch down.
The hosts missed a couple of opportunities for points when Dan Temm went to ground with a couple of players free outside him and then Richardson pulled a penalty attempt wide.
A foot in touch denied hooker Richard Wheale a try after he and Mark Palmer had combined at the front of a lineout but Crocs did not waste the position, managing to set up a driving maul from which Palmer plunged over and Richardson added the goal for 18-6 after 38 minutes.
Brods needed a score and got it just before the break. Richardson let the ball slip through his fingers over his own line and conceded a five metre scrum.
Under-pressure Brods not only managed to retain possession but No 8 Scrimshaw and his scrum half Joe Armitage engineered room for the latter to race over and Akroyd’s conversion cut the deficit to five points.
There was still time for Richardson to land a straight 25 metre penalty to make it 21-13 at half time.
Brods prop Jamie McLaughlin was yellow carded for a ruck offence five minutes after the break and Richardson took another three points.
Jack Hammond weaved his way through the visitors’ defence but dropped the ball and then it was Crocs’ turn to operate with 14 men after back rower Manny Riaz was sin-binned.
Akroyd was just short with a penalty from 40 metres but kept his side in the hunt from 10 metres nearer for a 24-16 scoreline on 56 minutes.
The clinching try came six minutes later. Richardson, whose heavy boot is Crocs’ key weapon in clearing danger, took the home side deep into Brods territory with an excellent penalty to touch. Chris Seymour’s pass sent the centre under the posts for a try Richardson converted himself.
It was all Brods from then on and although they repeatedly recycled possession in the home half, it was generally slow ball and Crocs threw a navy and gold blanket across the field to smother every attack.