It was a day of history at the Eirias Stadium in Colwyn Bay as the North Wales Crusaders welcomed Cornwall RLFC for their first ever fixture after their formation from the ashes of Hemel Stags/Ottawa Aces in 2021.
Under the coaching of the vastly experienced Neil Kelly, the games newest side made the six-hour journey from their base in Penryn to the North Wales Coast for the inaugural fixture having had a bye in the opening round of the League One competition.
The Crusaders got a big win away at Rochdale last week and were strong favourites to spoil the Cornwall party and collect the Celtic Shield.
Cornwall were playing in green with irregular white hoops as they took the field first in bright sunshine with the black and orange bedecked Crusaders joining them for the start of the game.
The Crusaders broke Cornwall hearts in the fourth minute with Gavin Rodden going in wide left as the Cornwall defence failed to cover across. Tommy Johnson did brilliantly to add the touchline conversion for a 6-0 lead.
On eight minutes a massive overlap down the left side allowed Rob Massam to walk in for a second try after fast hands from the back of the scrum. Johnson was again accurate with the boot, the tariff on the conversion not seeming to make any difference and at 12-0 the Crusaders were already coasting.
On ten minutes Jordy Gibson was in for the third try off a Massam pass as Cornwall had no answer to the power and skill of their hosts. Johnson was again accurate with the boot, and it was looking like an impossible ask for the visitors.
Callum Wood was sin-binned on fourteen for a cannonball tackle to at least check the Crusaders a little and slow down the rate of scoring.
On eighteen Rodden took a Patrick Ah Van pass to go through the Cornwall line and sprint forty metres to dab down under the crossbar. Johnson made it four out of four for 24-0.
Massam got his second, again under the uprights, on twenty-two after taking an overhead pass and running the angle infield from the right wing. Johnson was again accurate for 30-0, Cornwall now with the sole objective of avoiding total humiliation.
Showing some bad discipline again Callum Hazzard was sin-binned for the Crusaders after lashing out in the tackle with ball in hand.
Cornwall registered their first try in their history on thirty-five with Matthew Turton taking a Kyle Johns pass to dive in at the left corner and when Johns added the conversion from the touchline it was 6-30, a little pride for the visitors.
But Cornwall had poked a stick in the hornet’s nest. With a minute of the half ending Harry Swarbrick was on the overlap right to take the long pass and dive over in the right-hand corner. Johnson had his first attempt from the right touchline and slid it across the front of the sticks for a 34-6 Crusaders half time lead.
Cornwall scored the first try of the second half thanks to an interception by Harry Aaronson who took the ball thirty from his own line and sprinted seventy metres to score as the Crusaders defenders trailed in his wake. Johns was unable to add the extras, the visitors into double figures.
On forty-seven full-back Liam Whitton broke the Crusaders line thirty out and evaded his opposite number to dive over by the right upright, picking up a knock in the act of scoring. Johns added the conversion for 16-34 as Whitton left the field for an assessment.
On fifty-two the Crusaders were rocking as Sam Snell stepped off his right foot and dove over for the score from five metres out. Johns added the conversion to reduce the arrears to just two converted tries.
The ship was steadied on fifty-six when Patrick Ah Van exploited the space created as the Cornwall defenders failed to slide as he ran the angle to stoop and ground one handed. Johnson was unable to add the extras.
Massam got his hat-trick try on sixty-seven with Ah Van instrumental again in the try as the winger went over in the corner. Johnson hit the post with his conversion attempt, Cornwall twenty adrift with ten minutes remaining.
Reece Briers created the opportunity for himself with a kick through which wasn´t collected by the Cornwall defence and picked up by Ah Van and passed to Briers to go in. Johnson added the conversion from wide for 48-22.
Briers got his second in two minutes to bring up the fifty points and when Johnson added the conversion for 54-22 and when Brad Billsborough went in for the eleventh and final Crusaders try of the game, and despite Johnson missing the conversion the Crusaders were 58-22 up.
The final try of the game came in the dying seconds with Jack Holmes finding plenty of space to score down the right. Johnson hit the post for the third time in the match for a 62-22 win.
Despite getting a bit of a scare at the start of the second half, the outcome of the game was never really in doubt as the Crusaders overcame the leagues new boys and sent them back to Cornwall without a sniff of the points. All credit to Cornwall though who didn´t throw in the towel when 30-0 down and managed to find a higher gear and register a few tries and put on a decent show. Cornwall will have easier opponents than the Crusaders this season and there is every chance that they will not occupy the bottom spot at the end of the season.
North Wales Crusaders: Johnson (7G), Turner, Swarbrick (T), Ah Van (T), Massam (3T), Gibson (T), Billsborough (T), Barratt, Wood (SB on 14), Hazzard, Rodden (2T), Sherratt, Fletcher. Subs: Briers (2T), Grainey, Houghton, Holmes (T).
Cornwall: Whitton (T), Aaronson (T), Snell (T), Johns (3G), Symons, Turton (T), Purcell, Mullally, Lloyd, Ray, Hartshorne, Thomson, Prisk. Subs: Gilder, Bolger, Trerise, Collings.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, 16-0, 18-0, (SB), 22-0, 24-0, 28-0, 30-0, (SB), 30-4, 30-6, 34-6 : HT : 34-10, 34-14, 34-16, 34-20, 34-22, 38-22, 42-22, 46-22, 48-22, 52-22, 54-22, 58-22, 62-22 : FT.
Referee: Michael Mannifield.