North Wales Crusaders vs Cornwall – Report
July 30, 2023
In a remarkable game of two halves, Cornwall weathered a brilliant North Wales fightback to eventually prevail 40-38 at a rain lashed Tynewydd Fields.
The Choughs were imperious and rampant during the first half to score seven tries and take what looked like an unassailable 40-4 lead into the sheds.
But North Wales, led brilliantly by their player coach Carl Forster, crossed the whitewash seven times themselves. Come the final reckoning, Cornwall’s outstanding scrum-half Adam Rusling managed one more conversion than his opposite number Brad Billsborough and that proved to be the difference.
In a match played at Tynewydd Fields, home of Rhyl RFC, Cornwall flew out of the traps and opened the scoring after seven minutes when Welsh prop Harry Boots powered over and Rusling converted.
It got even better for Cornwall before double figures had elapsed when Rusling kicked in goal and Cam Brown bagged his 12th try of the campaign.
North Wales were shell shocked and Nathan Cullen’s 15th minute score stretched the visiting lead further. Rusling was once again involved as his flat pass found Cullen and the former Hull KIngston Rovers man sidestepped Owain Abel to score. Rusling made it three conversions from as many attempts.
Cornwall then ran riot for the next 10 minutes and scored a further hat-trick of tries. Firstly, Rusling’s wide ball to debutant Mackenzie Scurr was finished off brilliantly by the Bradford loanee.
The away side were playing champagne rugby at this point and Rusling’s chip over was gathered by Coby Nichol. Brilliant support play from Rusling saw the pint-sized playmaker in at the corner and he kicked a wonderful conversion from the sideline.
The mini-rout was completed by Brown who ran onto Rusling’s delayed pass to bag Cornwall’s sixth try – the fifth of which was converted.
North Wales trailed 34-0 at this point but managed to score their first points of the game when rangy winger Rob Massam snuck in at the corner but Billsborough couldn’t convert.
Cornwall weren’t quite done in the first half however as in the dying embers of the opening stanza, Jaden Barraclough dotted down and Rusling’s conversion lifted the Choughs to the 40-point mark.
At that stage, it appeared there was no way back for North Wales, who are desperately clinging onto sixth in the table and the final play-off place.
The hosts had other ideas and within five minutes of the restart, had scored back-to-back tries through Alex Eckley and young half-back Leon Hayes.
Eckley then appeared to have blown any chances of what looked like an unlikely fightback when he was sent for a 10 minute sabbatical by referee John Lincoln for use of the elbow.
It didn’t deter North Wales though and when Connor Wrench pushed the hosts over the 20-point mark approaching the hour mark, hopes were raised again.
Shortly after, Wrench bagged his first of two tries but crucially, Billsborough pulled the conversion wide.
Then Cornish nerves really started to jitter when Wrench scored again out wide and with Billsborough converting, the lead was down to eight points and a grandstand finish would ensue.
With five minutes left, another Wrench try, converted by Billsborough, reduced the match to a two-point ball game.
North Wales then threw caution to the wind as Cornwall clung on desperately. One final break from Holmes inside the last minute saw the ball eventually go dead and the siren sounded to give Cornwall a third victory in their last four games.
Crusaders: Abel, Holmes, Wrench, Oakley, Massam, hayes, Billsborough, Andrade, Pemberton, Barratt, Whitehead, Ellis, Forster. Interchange: (all used) Rainford, Eckley, Hazard, Fletcher
Tries: Massam (28), Eckley (43), Hayes (45), Wrench (58,67), Holmes (61,75)
Goals: Billsborough 5/7
Sinbin: Eckley (49) – use of the elbow
Cornwall: Whitton, Brown, Croston, Nichol, Scurr, Punchard, Rusling, Boots, Collins, Newbound, Cullen, Weetman, Lloyd. Interchange: (all used) Barraclough, Dimech, I Badham, E Badham.
Tries: Boots (7), Brown (9,26), Cullen (15), Scurr (18), Rusling (22), Barraclough (39)
Goals: Rusling 6/7
Referee: John Lincoln