Old Crossleyans beat Thornensians 33-16 in Yorkshire Two today and in the words of coach Mark Walton “brought a bit of joy and laughter back to the club”.
Crocs have been in free fall for the last two and bit seasons and this was their first home win, at the fourth attempt, in the current campaign.
Just as significant was the manner in which victory was achieved.
Another reshuffle left Crocs with a line-up which suddenly looked and played well enough to suggest they can cling to the rock face they currently find themselves on.
The performance in a narrow defeat at Wetherby the previous week had been rated Crocs’ best of the season and this was a further step forward, although they remain next to bottom.
The home forwards bullied their Thorne counterparts in the first half, repeatedly battering their way over the gain line.
The back line also had far more cohesion with Zane Sanders switched to scrum half and Neil Richardson returning at stand-off.
The “retired” Richardson’s only other appearance this season had come in the Broomfield men’s only previous win, away to Sheffield Medicals.
Crocs built a 20-6 half time lead and continued to dominate field position but an escalating penalty count cost them their chance of a bonus-point fourth try.
Winger Gareth Sweeney finished with 23 points from a try, four penalties and three conversions and was narrowly off target with another two shots at goal.
Thorne, whose slide down the table had continued with a narrow defeat to leaders Moortown the previous week, had the first chance of points on a dry, breezy and cool afternoon.
Full back Andy Barrass missed with a penalty from long range on eight minutes and Crocs swept in front three minutes later.
Lock Kev McGill made a break and although the attack was in danger of faltering, No 15 Joe Baker arrived at speed and cut through to score.
Sweeney converted and added a 16th minute penalty for offside after Luke Sturman had been hauled down just short of the line following Jack Hammond’s burst.
Barrass and Sweeney traded penalties for a 13-3 score line entering the second quarter and although Barrass narrowed the gap to seven points on 35 minutes, Crocs got a vital converted try just before the break.
The earlier hard work done by the likes of Phil Schedlbauer, Bodge Sembi and Ollie Coyne down the middle had left Thorne vulnerable and Baker sent in Sweeney on the left. The winger cut in behind the posts to make his conversion easier.
Sweeney’s boot made it 23-6 on 44 minutes but he missed a couple of long, fairly straight penalties in quick succession and play, while centred in the Thorne half, became scrappy.
There were a couple of flare-ups during the contest and referee Mike Dickinson began to loose patience with persistent offending, sending visiting prop Aiden Smith to the sin-bin, to be followed by McGill and finally home skipper Jack Hammond.
Blind side flanker Scott Berry plunged over in the corner for Thorne with nine minutes left but a good Crocs follow up to Kyle Maude’s kick ahead earned Sweeney another three points.
When Billy Hammond made a break to the Thorne 22 and Richardson swatted two opponents out of his way for another seven-pointer, Crocs had a couple of minutes to get a fourth try and a bonus point.
Instead it was Thorne who had the final word through winger Luke Marsden near the top touchline.
Walton was delighted with his side’s general improvement and said it was important to keep the pot boiling against mid-table opponents over the next few weeks.