CHALLENGE CUP REPORT 2010 – Crusaders 34 Catalans Dragons 35

Thomas Bosc landed a last-minute drop-goal to steer Catalans Dragons into the Challenge Cup quarter-finals at the expense of a spirited Crusaders outfit.

French side Catalan had looked firmly in control when they bounced back from an early Clinton Schifcofske try to run in five of their own before the break.

Crusaders came out fighting, running in three of their six tries in seven minutes to draw level at 34-34.

But, after 10 minutes of stalemate, Bosc kept his cool to settle it.

Crusaders scrum-half Jarrod Sammut had just gone agonisingly wide with a drop-goal attempt of his own that would have earned Brian Noble’s men a famous win at the Racecourse Ground.

Bosc was then off target with his first drop-goal attempt before succeeding with a second effort with just 27 seconds left on the clock – and the prospect of extra time looming.

Earlier, a hat-trick of tries from New Zealand international Setaimata Sa had put the 2007 runners-up in command but they lost their way when stand-off Casey McGuire went off injured.

Crusaders’ chief playmaker Michael Witt also missed most of the second-half action but newcomer Sammut sparked an amazing revival with his unique bag of tricks on his home debut.

It had all started so promisingly for the home side, with Sammut producing a delightful pass out of the back of his hand to get full-back Schifcofske over for his first try for the club after only six minutes.

But the Dragons had already spotted a weakness on the left side of the Crusaders defence and Sa powered through it after taking a pass from McGuire.

McGuire and Dimitri Pelo then combined to get winger Steven Bell over at the same spot and Bosc finished off a break by Olivier Elima to claim a third try midway through the first period.

The towering Sa grabbed his second try courtesy of Bosc’s high kick and when substitute Dane Carlaw made the most of some slipshod tackling to crash over for the Catalans’ fifth try there seemed no way back for the home side.

But centre Vince Mellars gave Crusaders hope when he took Gareth Thomas’s neat pass to pull a try back on 32 minutes. And Frank Winterstein added another eight minutes into the second half.

When Sa completed his first hat-trick for the club on 57 minutes to make it 34-18 Crusaders’ hearts sank but their spirits were raised once more when substitute Peter Lupton went over on the hour.

That was the signal for Sammut to take centre stage and he regathered his own chip kick to touch down for his second try in two matches before producing the telling pass that created a touchdown for winger Nick Youngquest.

Schifcofske had kicked all three conversions up to then but was wide with the touchline effort that would have edged his side in front, enabling the Dragons to have the last laugh in the land of the Dragon.

Crusaders (12) 34
Tries: Schifcofske, Mellars, Winternstein, Lupton, Sammut, Youngquest
Goals: Witt 2, Schifcofske 3

Catalans (30) 35
Tries: Sa 3, Bell, Bosc, Carlaw
Goals: Bosc 5 Drop Goal: Bosc

Crusaders RL: Schifcofske, Thomas, Mellars, Hanbury, Youngquest, Witt, Sammut, O’Hara, Withers, Bryant, Hauraki, Chan, Trimarchi.
Replacements: Lupton, Thackray, Flower, Winternstein.

Catalans Dragons: Pelo, Bell, Raguin, Sa, Vaccari, McGuire, Bosc, Ferriol, Baile, Guisset, Elima, Mounis, Johnson.
Replacements: K Bentley, Casty, Fakir, Carlaw.

Attendance: 1,817.
Referee: Ian Smith (Oldham).