Ian Golden and Harry Jones review the weekend’s action in matches that featured Wales internationals and hopefuls.
North Wales Crusaders ‘A’ took the RFL Wheelchair Championship North title on Saturday after beating York giving them a 100 per cent record in the English season and their first ever league trophy. The Crusaders held a slender 12-point lead going into the break 28-16 up following tries from Jessica Booth, Stephen Halsey, Martin Turner and Matthew Turner, with the latter adding four conversions. The second half is where the Crusaders took full dominance as they racked up 34 unanswered points with tries from, Booth, Halsey (both completing their hat-tricks), Ethan Neilson, Jakub Wasieczko with Martin Turner, Halsey and Wasieczko all adding conversions. This Crusaders side will be in action again on Sunday in Wrexham in the final round of the WRL Wheelchair Invitational League, hoping to end the season with a 50 per cent record in this competition.
Jodie Boyd-Ward‘s Leeds Rhinos, who had already secured themselves a home play-off game, fell 52-36 to Halifax Panthers but were still able to secure themselves their fourth consecutive League Leaders Shield. This trophy for Leeds, meant that four out of the five RFL Wheelchair League Leaders were all claimed by teams captained by either a Welsh player, with Gary Preece captaining Hereford Harriers in the RFL Championship West and Halsey’s North Wales Crusaders’ first team side coming top of the Championship. This Crusaders side, who are also unbeaten in English competition, now face Bradford Bulls in the play-offs at Deeside on October 8 (kick-off 1.45pm).
In Saturday’s only Betfred Wheelchair Super League match, Mark Williams and Wigan Warriors secured themselves a play-off spot with a 32-10 victory with Williams setting up one of the Wigan scores that condemned Hull to another season outside of the play-offs.
Sadly, North Wales Crusaders’ men’s side weren’t celebrating as they lost to Doncaster in the RFL League 1 Promotion Final. Rob Massam was out after failing an HIA last week but Owain Abel and Josh Lynch were included in the Crusaders’ side.
The final day of the men’s RFL Championship season was as exciting as billed, with Swinton Lions escaping relegation thanks to a 22-12 win at Halifax Panthers. Swinton skipper Rhodri Lloyd was amongst the try-scorers and Gavin Bennion was also in the Lions’ side, in a victory that meant Halifax missed out on the play-offs. It also means that Halfiax’s Dan Fleming bowed out of competitive rugby league on the bench as he was an unused 18th man for Halifax and later announced his retirement. Whitehaven, who fielded Connor Holliday on Saturday also missed the drop despite losing at Toulouse Olympique XIII. Josh Ralph was in action for the French side. This meant that Keighley Cougars were relegated on points difference after losing at London Broncos, for whom Dalton Grant starred.
TRY, BATLEY!! Meadows with a dink through the Newcastle line. Kear wins the foot race and slams the ball into the ground!
— Batley Bulldogs RLFC (@BatleyRLFC) September 23, 2023
Elliot Kear scored a try on his 300th professional club game, but it’ll be his final match of the season. Batley Bulldogs may have beaten Curtis Davies‘ Newcastle Thunder but York Knights’ win at Barrow Raiders means that Batley were edged out of the top six. Bradford Bulls, starring Chester Butler warmed up for their play-off campaign with a last-minute drop-goal giving them a 17-16 win over Sheffield Eagles leapfrogging them into third place in the final table. Featherstone Rovers had already secured top spot and Widnes Vikings were already deprived of a place in the top six before the weekend. The two sides met on Sunday and Rovers crushed the Vikings 62-10 with Caleb Aekins getting a brace of tries. Matty Fozard and Anthony Walker were on the Widnes side.
There won’t be a Welsh meeting in the Women’s Super League Grand Final in two weeks’ time, but there will be representation. Bethan Dainton continues her exciting season after she helped Leeds Rhinos to their fifth consecutive Grand Final as they avenged their Challenge Cup Final defeat by winning 20-16 away at St Helens. However Carys Marsh couldn’t inspire Wigan Warriors to meet them as her side lost out at York Valkyrie. In the race for promotion, Becki Davies made a comeback from injury as she started on the bench for Salford Red Devils in her long-await club debut, but she couldn’t prevent a Leigh Leopards win, for whom Keira McCosh starred.