Date: Sunday 12th April
Venue: Glyndwr Racecourse University Stadium, Wrexham
The Crusaders booked a trip to Blackpool on Wednesday whilst the Thunder missed out on Tuesday at Swinton. But who will pick up two league points in North Wales on Sunday?
Last Time Out
North Wales narrowly fought past Oldham on Wednesday night to secure a place at Blackpool for the iPro Sport Cup semi-final.
After falling behind to a George Tyson try, Rob Massam would bring North Wales level but two Lewis Palfrey’s penalties give Oldham the lead at the interval. Ryan Duffy and Jamie Dallimore would put the Crusaders into an eight point lead and held on despite a Danny Langtree try two minutes from time.
After beating Barrow on the Friday, Swinton defeated the Thunder on the Tuesday in the iPro Sport Cup semi-finals. Despite taking the lead through a Jordan Meads try, Jordan James and Chris Atkin put the Lions into the lead.
Sheriff brought Thunder level before Darren Hawkyard restored the Lions advantage. Meads would bring the visitors back on terms before a Mat Gardner effort and second from Atkin along with a penalty kick from the full back put the game beyond Newcastle despite efforts from Mead and Charlie Wabo. Andy Ackers wrapped things up on the hooter.
Anthony Murray’s back line could look different from that which faced Swinton and Oldham as Scott Turner left the field at Oldham injured and Alex Thompson looks set to miss out after picking up a knock on his ankle.
Benn Hardcastle could return from injury after missing out against Swinton whilst locally produced youngster Ali Blair could retain his place in the side across the border.
The forward packs could prove to be a match winner in what should be a fiercely tough contest between two of the divisions favourites.
The big man Jono Smith against the Kumulu giant Mark Mexico could shatter ground should the two have a hit up during this one.
What The Coaches Say
North Wales Crusaders Coach Anthony Murray: “There’s a real buzz around Newcastle at the minute; they’re playing really well under Stanley Gene and had the highest attendance in the league on the opening weekend of the season.
“Stanley has got them playing some good rugby and he has managed to strengthen their team over the off-season with his Papua New Guinea link.
“They’ve gone from strength to strength and they will fancy their chances of doing well in the league this season.
“It will be a hard game – there’s no doubt about that what so ever – but we’ve played some good stuff at home so far this season and, hopefully, we’ll be able to carry that on.”
Newcastle Thunder Coach Stanley Gene: “We’re a side that is building and we’re getting to a standard where I want the boys to be.”
“Last year when we came to Swinton they flogged us 66-4. At times I thought we could have won the game. Swinton are a side with quality all over the park but we showed that we could compete at this level.
“We’ve got a massive game against North Wales. For me they are a class side who are well drilled but we will be ready.”
Neither side will be fresh heading into this one after gruelling midweek cup semi-finals on the back of tough league openers, however, it is hard to see the Thunder leaving Wrexham with the points – North Wales by 10.