North Wales Crusaders hit the road again this week as they travel to West Cumbria to take on a Workington Town side led by former Crusaders coach Anthony Murray.
Last Sunday an injury hit Crusaders squad travelled to Keighley to take on the Cougars in round 4 of the Challenge Cup and whilst not being able to get the victory against the Championship side, a makeshift squad showed some excellent signs of what is to come.
With no dual reg players available and both first choice halves in Brad Billsborough and Dave Gibbons unavailable, Crusaders took to the field with an unorthodox pairing of Matt Fletcher and Brad Jinks at 6 and 7.
This didn't last long however with Brad Jinks becoming the latest victim of an HIA. Matt Fletcher performed admirably in an unfamiliar role and was praised by coach Carl Forster after the game for a massive performance. Dante Morley-Samuels (2) and Kieran Taylor went over for the tries whilst the game also saw Wrexham local Alfie Matthias make his debut from the bench alongside Scotland U18 back rower Jake Bloxham.
Workington had last weekend off having gone down 24-20 to Doncaster in the previous round of the cup. Town have had a decent start to their 2023 season winning 2 of their 3 games in the league and also adding another victory in round 2 of the Challenge Cup against Ince Rose Bridge. The opening league game saw them put a heavy score on London Skolars as they came away from London with a 58-16 victory which was then followed by a home defeat to league leaders Dewsbury Rams. Their last game was a hard fought 38-28 away victory in Birmingham against Midlands Hurricanes.
Sean Sabutey has starred for Town early on as he leads the try scoring charts with 6 to his name already this year. They will be boosted by the return from injury of club captain Steve Scholey alongside experienced centre Jason Mossop whilst Tom Curwen, Malik Steel and Carl Forber remain sidelined. Anthony Murray has also bolstered his squad this week after signing ex Leeds and Hunslet halfback Jack Mallinson for the remainder of 2023 after a successful trial with the club.
Speaking earlier in the week, Murray knows that Crusaders will be a hard test for his new side, saying: “Im expecting a really tough game against Crusaders.
“I know they havent won in League One yet but they have a very powerful and experienced pack of forwards. Carl Forster, as player coach, gives them that extra bit of know how and direction on the field. They haven't been beaten by much in the games that they have lost so it's going to be a tough test for us.”
Crusaders welcome back a number of dual reg players with St. Helens youngsters Wesley Bruines, Mckenzie Buckley and Danny Moss all named in the squad. In addition, Warrington scrum-half Leon Hayes joins the squad and will be looking to make an instant impact. Hayes impressed during the 20-20 draw in pre-season between North Wales and Warrington and has Super League experience having played for the Wolves twice in 2022.
A number of North Wales players are unavailable due to continued injuries with Brad Jinks being added to the list following his HIA at Keighley. Brad Billsborugh (shoulder) and Dave Gibbons (suspension) remain unavailable whilst Paul Nash, Jack Holmes, Jonny Griffiths, Alex Eckley and Jack Holmes remain sidelined.
Coach Carl Forster is upbeat about this week's game and when asked about what he wants to see this weekend, said the following: “I just want to see the same again in terms of commitment and effort. I thought the honesty in what they did was outstanding.
“Obviously we've got to tighten some things up and it will be another new half back combination this week. We’ll probably play it a bit simpler like we did against Keighley but if we bring the same attitude as we did last week we will be there or thereabouts.”