Old Crossleyans suffered a second successive Yorkshire One defeat when they lost 21-13 away to Middlesbrough yesterday and slipped to fourth in the table.
They travelled to Acklam Park hoping to banish memories of the previous week’s disappointing home defeat to Keighley but a try in stoppage time denied them the losing bonus point their second half display arguably merited.
Crocs were forced into changes due to suspensions and unavailability and four Hammond brothers were in the starting XV.
The first half had few scoring opportunities due to two solid defences as well as an inability to retain possession.
The opening exchanges were dominated by Middlesbrough before Callum Dunne and Josh Hunt combined well to take play into the opposition half. When the ball was recycled, just short of the try line, it was knocked on.
Middlesbrough came back strongly and a powerful break in midfield was only halted by a fine tackle from Jack Pilcher.
Midway through the half a speculative grubber kick was not secured by the Crocs’ defensive cover and Jack McPhillips pounced on the loose ball. Matthew Todd’s conversion gave Middlesbrough a 7-0 lead.
Tom Metcalfe, on from the bench, made a superb break and Dunne’s penalty reduced the deficit to 7-3. Todd replied in stoppage time after Crocs were penalised for a late tackle.
A much more entertaining second half got under way with an injury to Boj Sembi and then his replacement Jaymes Chapman.
The disruption to the front row did not prevent Crocs from scoring a try of real quality five minutes into the half.
Skipper Martin Hamer made an excellent break from within his own half and the supporting Gareth Sweeney finished in the corner. The conversion fell short but Middlesbrough’s lead was down to 10-8.
The Crocs scrum was retreating at an alarming rate and a Todd penalty made it 13-8.
The visitors’ response was immediate and spectacular. Middlesbrough cleared long, Chris Vine secured the ball and Dunne scythed through and left defenders in his wake. The move was sustained through several pairs of hands, enabling Jack Hammond to touch down. The conversion was missed but, entering the final half hour, the match was tied 13-13.
Billy Hammond pounced on a Middlesbrough handling error in midfield and although the cover got across, a penalty was conceded in the subsequent passage of play. Crocs decided to run the ball but turned it over.
The home team came back strongly and threatened the Crocs’ line on a number of occasions. A driving maul was halted and when the ball was thrown down the back line a knock on prevented a scoring opportunity.
Middlesbrough did retake the lead midway through the half with an easy Todd penalty.
Several Crocs players were offside from the restart and an excellent deep kick from Todd created more pressure.
Crocs cleared a couple of times but the hosts were not to be denied and following a scrum, the ball was passed down the right flank and Harry Bryce touched down in the corner. The conversion fell short.