Sunday sees North Wales Crusaders return home to Stadiwm CSM as they take on Oldham RLFC in the 4th game of the league season.
Crusaders tough start to the season continued last weekend away to Doncaster. The 30-16 scoreline doesn't tell the whole story as Crusaders put in an excellent performance but were yet again hampered by injuries and some superb defence by an experienced Doncaster side.
Oldham had a winning start to their league season with a comprehensive 62-18 victory over London Skolars in what was their only league outing of the year so far. They didn't fare as well in the Challenge Cup as they lost a tight contest away at Doncaster 28-26.
Crusaders will continue to be without a host of players through injury and suspension in what is becoming an unprecedented early season injury toll. Brad Billsborough remains on the sidelines with a shoulder issue with Dave Gibbons continuing to serve his 5 match ban. Alex Eckley, Paul Nash, Jonny Griffiths, Callum Hazzard and Dec Hulme are all unavailable for the visit of Oldham alongside St Helens dual reg player Ben Lane who failed an HIA in the early stages of the Doncaster clash.
There is however some brighter news with Ryan Ellis, Brad Brennan and Rob Masssam all returning to the squad this week. If selected, Rob Massam will be hoping to secure his 200th career try. Crusaders will also be boosted by the availability of St Helens dual reg youngsters Danny Moss, Lewis Baxter and Mckenzie Buckley.
In further good news for the club, both Carl Forster and Owain Abel have this week been announced as part of the Rugby League World League 1 team of the month.
Carl Forster was upbeat after the Doncaster game and said: “I wasn't as disappointed as I probably should be after a defeat. I thought it was probably the best rugby we have played all season.”
“We brought Danny Moss and Ben Lane in at 7 and 1 with Brad Billsborough and Dave Gibbons being sidelined so we had to look at a new spine. We lost Ben within 3 or 4 minutes and had to reshuffle the whole pack again. Back rowers on the wing, centres in back row, it was ridiculous.”
“I thought Doncasters scramble defence was unbelievable. The amount of times we got held up over the line or were a yard short of the line, any other day they are tries. You have to take your hat off to Doncaster for that. Overall I was happy with what we did but obviously never happy to lose a game.”
Forster also gave an update on injuries, saying: “Ben Lane failed an HIA so we will be missing him. We were hoping we would have him slightly longer term."
"We are hoping to get Rob Massam back this week which will be a massive return for both Rob and the team."
"Ryan Ellis pulled up in training last week and he was due to start in the back row against Donny so we hope he will be fit this week.”
“We've got about 11 players out at the moment which is ridiculous considering how early on in the season it is but we will keep plugging away. I think we are in a really good spot, we are building every week and hopefully this will be the week where we get the result.”