ANTHONY MURRAY admits his North Wales Crusaders squad will be ‘disappointed’ after their Super Eight prospects were dealt a major blow.
Crusaders conceded a late try to be held to a 20-20 draw by Coventry Bears on Sunday and coupled with Newcastle Thunder’s 50-16 thrashing of South Wales Scorpions it now looks unlikely that Murray’s men will finish in League One’s top eight when the division splits in two following next weekend’s matches.
Crusaders now need to beat Hunslet Hawks on Sunday and hope Newcastle slip up at Hemel Stags, but that is highly unlikely given Hemel are rock bottom with just one win from 13 outings this term.
Tries from Luke Warburton, Stephen Wild, Tommy Johnson and on-loan Salford man Phil Joseph had helped Cru open up a 12-point lead at Chester’s Hare Lane, but Coventry hit back with Jack Morrison’s last-gasp effort to seal a draw.
“Coventry deserved something from the game because they were the better side at the start and in the last 20 minutes,” head coach Murray explained.
“With a commanding lead with 20 minutes to go, you expect to close it out. But we allowed silly errors to creep into our play, our kicking let us down and we allowed Coventry back into it.
“The players are rightly disappointed more so with the manner of how we’ve managed to not win the game, but that’s the way it goes.
“I think the defeat to Toulouse (32-14 the previous week) took plenty out of us. We pushed the leaders all the way and I think physically we paid the price for that.
“It’s disappointing as our goal was to finish in the top eight, but it now looks unlikely and we’ll prepare for the second half of the season in the second tier.”
Murray believes the fact Crusaders are frustrated at missing out on a potential top eight berth is an indication of how far they have come since pre-season, when the squad was decimated by off-field issues with the board and playing squad, several key players departing including Jamie Dallimore, Joe Burke and Christiaan Roets.
“At the start of the season, people didn’t give us a chance,” he continued. “Some said we’d be lucky to win a game, so for Crusaders to be in a position to challenge for the top tier shows just how far we’ve come.
“We can start to focus on that second tier now and trying to win that, which brings silverware with it. That will be a tough section though and there’s several good sides in there with us.”
On the eve of the Coventry clash, long-serving full-back Stuart Reardon announced his retirement from rugby league, as he requires surgery on an injured shoulder.
It ends a 14-year career for the 34-year-old which has seen him enjoy five years at Crusaders having previously won the Grand Final with Bradford Bulls.
“It’s a shame for Stu, he’d have wanted to end his career on his own terms but these things happen,” Murray added.
“He’s been a fantastic ambassador for North Wales Crusaders and it’s a big blow as we were hoping to get some more games out of him this season.
“There will always be a role here for Stu if he wants it and we wish him all the best.”