Old Crossleyans and Pontefract shared the points in a highly entertaining 31-31 draw at Moor Lane.
The home team had an opportunity to take a win with the last play of the contest but the attempted conversion of a try drifted wide.
The lead changed hands on several occasions but Crocs will be disappointed not to have won after building a 31-19 lead entering the final quarter. However, Pontefract finished the match very much in the ascendancy.
Crocs made a number of changes from the previous week’s home defeat by Moortown. Iain Davies was unavailable and captain Martin Hamer was carrying an injury but Tony Oxley returned in the second row. James Cooper and George Hammond started in the pack and Kev McGill took a place on the bench.
The first scoring chance came after three minutes following a thrilling break from Josh Hunt, who ran from deep in his own half. He skipped round would be tacklers to take play into Pontefract territory. The hosts subsequently conceded a penalty but Callum Dunne’s attempt hit a post.
Instead, it was Pontefract who took the lead after 10 minutes following a series of errors from the Crocs’ defence. Awarded a scrum five metres out, Gareth Burns picked up from the base and powered over the line with ease. Liam Kaye’s conversion established a 7-0 lead.
The Crocs’ response was immediate. When Pontefract were penalised, they kicked to the left corner. Patient building of the phases eventually created space for Billy Hammond to force his way over. The conversion was missed.
Tony Oxley’s ball steal and break to half way put Crocs on the front foot. Shortly after, Joe Stott cleared long and his excellent chase forced the Pontefract defender into touch. From the resultant lineout, the back line was released and Dunne drew the last defender before releasing Chris Vine. The fullback outpaced the cover and Crocs led for the first time midway through the half.
Pontefract came back strongly and George Ackroyd gathered in a speculative grubber kick in his own ‘22’ allowing Joe Gallagher to clear to touch. Minutes later, a Pontefract back line move broke down and Jack Hammond seized on the loose ball and surged into the opposition half. Pontefract were penalised and had a man yellow carded. Crocs chose to take the quick tap option and their enterprise was rewarded when Jack Pilcher muscled his way over. Dunne’s conversion stretched the lead to 17-7.
Crocs were playing with confidence, looking to run the ball at every opportunity and a further try was ruled out for a forward pass.
Pontefract pressed the Crocs’ line just before half time. The visitors conceded a series of penalties and Pontefract took the scrum option from five metres out. Crocs had a man yellow carded and the numerical advantage enabled Stuart Sanderson to go over in the left corner. The conversion was missed but the lead was reduced to 17-12.
Pontefract maintained their attacking momentum and retook the lead after 47 minutes. From a scrum penalty option metres out from the line, the Crocs’ pack was in retreat and Burns claimed his second try. Liam Kaye’s conversion made it 19-17.
This slender advantage lasted only a few minutes as Crocs replied impressively with two tries in quick succession midway through the half.
The first came when Crocs stole Pontefract line out ball. Joe Gallagher’s cross field kick to the right wing was caught by Chris Vine who then cut back infield and broke a number of tackles to touch down. Gallagher landed the conversion and Crocs now led 24-19.
The second try came following a long clearance and the chase put the Pontefract defence under pressure. The ball was stripped by the Crocs wingers, allowing Josh Hunt a free run to the line. Another Gallagher conversion stretched the lead to 31-19.
This heralded the start of the Pontefract fight back. At first, the visitors dug in and forced turnover ball but the hosts camped in the opposition half. A scrum on the Crocs’ ‘22’ eventually released Richard Hossack who cut in from his wing to touch down besides the posts. The conversion made it 31-26 with 10 minutes to play.
Crocs held out resolutely but the sheer intensity of the pressure eventually told in stoppage time.
Camped deep in the Crocs’ half, Pontefract were awarded a series of penalties. Crocs had a further man yellow carded and, not surprisingly, Pontefract took the scrum option on each occasion and eventually forced their way over the line.
The missed conversion left the scores level between the two teams promoted to Yorkshire One at the end of last season.