North Wales Crusaders come from behind to lift the Wheelchair Championship trophy at Sundays Grand Final in Manchester
North Wales Crusaders earlier this month, won the Wheelchair Championship Final, beating Wigan Warriors A 46-40 in Manchester to end their season with a one hundred percent record.
The Crusaders were coming into the game as favourites, looking to go one better than their men’s side counterparts, and didn’t disappoint.
Wigan came out strongest in the first half, although the Crusaders did take an early 2-0 lead following a Stephen Halsey penalty. But when Wigan fought back and scored 22 consecutive points, the Crusaders head seemed to drop, however, a moment of brilliance saw Halsey pounce onto a Harry Jones kick to score on the death of the half to bring some life back into his sides performance.
The Crusaders seemed fairly relaxed at half-time though it may not of been that way. Some very choice words by captain, Halsey seemed to get the Crusaders fired up as they came out of the half time all guns blazing.
Back-to-back tries for the Crusaders as Harry Jones’ kicking game seemed to be extremely damaging to the Warriors outfit, but Wigan were able to claw back some points but by the midway point of the half, the Welsh side found themselves in the lead with scores coming from Halsey, Ricki Davies, player-coach, Harry Jones, and player of the match, Lucie Roberts.
However, the ghost of Crusaders past, Mark Williams, once again haunted the Crusaders as his work on the ball and off the tee as he inspired his side to claw back to make it a six-point affair in the dying minutes. Wigan thought they were in with just 10 seconds on the clock however some quick reactions by the Crusaders defense saw them concede a goal line drop-out with just 4 seconds left, which saw Harry Jones belt the ball out into touch, brining on the full time hooter and the celebrations for the welsh side.
Following the victory, Head Coach and Player, Harry Jones said the following: "I'm so incredibly proud of the team and players, but in all honesty I'm not surprised that we were able to not only claw back the deficit but to take home the victory.
"We came to Manchester with one goal, play our rugby and we did just that, we were able to identify who Wigan's stronger players were and where they would try and isolate and as a coach, I couldn't be happier for the side.
"This victory highlighted a key lesson that we as a club and I especially as a coach want to instill in all our players, that being. Don't go into half-time overly confident that you're going to win and don't give up regardless of the scoreline - coming from that far behind to take home the trophy showed that our players have taken this lesson and ran with it.
"This season, I have been able to call-up a number of our development, under-18's and complete newbies into the side and it's worked extremely well for us and I couldn't be prouder for how our more experienced players have handled this season and how they've welcomed these players into the squad."
The celebrations didn't just stop there for the Crusaders as following the game, Mason Baker, who joined the club back in 2013 as a child collected the RFL's Player of the Year for the Championship whilst, Ethan Neilson, John Doyle, coach Gary Taylor and captain, Wyatt Jones were presented with the Championship North trophy.
North Wales Crusaders Chairman, Stephen Jones had the following to say: "What a year 2023 has been for us.
“We’ve gone from the start of the year being told that we wouldn’t be allowed to compete in the 2023 Super League by the powers that be as we don’t bring anything to the sport, to winning both of our leagues with one hundred percent records.
“We have increased the number of players this year and thanks to our community and schools programmes, we have introduced wheelchair Rugby League to over 600 school children. The club managed to retain the Peacock Cup, finished third in the inaugural Welsh Invitational league and are in the final for the Welsh Wheelchair Challenge Cup.
“One of our A team players Jessica Booth had the highest number of tries in Regional North Championship and Mason Baker won player of the season for the Championship. Some of our volunteers and players also won awards outside of the competitions for the work that they do, which goes to show what a strong club and fantastic sponsors can achieve in the face of adversity.”
North Wales Crusaders: Ste Halsey, Mason Baker, Lucie Roberts, Harry Jones, Jonathan Gill.
Interchanges: Wyatt Jones, Jessica Booth, Ricki Davies, Jakub Wasieczko, Matthew Turner.
Tries: Halsey (4), Roberts (2), Davies, Jones
Goals: Halsey 7/9
Wigan Warriors: Chris Greenhalgh, Reece Duddle, Nathan Roberts, Mark Williams, Tom Welch.
Interchange: Wes Thomasson, Rob Gregson, Leila Hamrang, Daniel Dutson, Jordan Burns.
Tries: Roberts (3), Dutson, Greenhalgh, Welch, Williams.
Goals: Greenhalgh 2/3, Williams 4/4