Coach Jamie Bloem has pledged that Halifax Vandals will “come back stronger” after conceding that their days in Yorkshire Two are numbered.
Derby rivals Old Crossleyans followed up their hard-fought 10-8 home win in November with a 25-11 win in the rematch in murky, wet conditions at Warley yesterday.
Late tries from prop Phil Schedlbauer and centre Mark Boothroyd, both converted by ex-Vandal Joe Gallagher, settled another hard-fought, fairly even contest.
The result left the home side rooted to the foot of the table and maintained Crocs’ promotion drive in third place.
With five games remaining, 25 points left to play for and a gap of 12 points to bridge up to third-from-bottom Thornensians, Vandals’ fate is not yet sealed.
However, after notching just three wins this season, Bloem believes the battle is lost for last year’s Yorkshire Three champions.
“We’re down, we already knew that, but we are already planning for next year and making some signings,” he said.
Bloem, who has a long playing CV spanning both codes of rugby, said a spate of serious injuries had cost Vandals dear this season.
He is proud of his players’ continued commitment to the cause and said that Vandals would rally in 2018-19.
Crocs player-coach Ryan Hammond’s initial reaction after the game was disappointment at his side’s failure to pick up a four-try bonus point.
However, the gap between them Broomfield men and second-placed Barnsley is down to fourth points after those rivals lost 15-14 at home to champions elect Pontefract. Barnsley visit Broomfield in the penultimate match of the season.
Vandals had the advantage of the slight slope in the first half, making ground through their forwards and lively centre Chris Robinson while Crocs used the heavy boot of stand-off Gallagher to test the catching skills of the Vandals’ back three.
Winger Jimmy Crowther kicked a fifth-minute penalty for Vandals but Gallagher made it 3-3 midway through the half.
The first move of any real quality in the difficult conditions produced an unconverted try for the visitors on 26 minutes. Centre Jack Hammond made a break and expertly popped up the ball in the tackle for supporting full back Callum Dunne to race over the line.
Vandals had an edge in the scrums and they drew level approaching half time when the visitors’ defence was found wanting wide out and left winger Tom Crowther surged in. His brother Jimmy was unable to add the conversion.
Gallagher puts Crocs 11-8 up with a straight 30 metre penalty for offside but warning lights were flashing for the visitors when they were temporarily reduced to 13 men by yellow cards for Ryan Hammond seconds before the interval and fellow back rower Tom Metcalfe six minutes after it.
Crocs, who were being shoved off their scrum ball, limited the damage to just a levelling Jimmy Crowther penalty on 50 minutes and back to 15-a-side it was anyone’s game.
Vandals were unable to make the most of their possession and it was Crocs who made the crucial breakthrough. Powerful centre Boothroyd was held up close to the line before Schedlbauer made it over from close range.
Yellow cards in quick succession for Robinson and Gaz Nicholson dashed Vandals’ hopes of a response and Boothroyd muscled his way under the posts following a scrum near the home line.
Crocs might have had a fourth try, and an even more flattering margin of victory, had lock Raman Sembi been able to scoop up a difficult bouncing ball over the try line in the closing seconds.