Fears that Old Crossleyans’ slump has not yet reached the bottom were fuelled by yesterday’s 27-10 home defeat by Leodiensians.
The visitors from Leeds had not managed as much as a losing bonus point in their previous four outings this season but they made the Broomfield men look distinctly second best.
Leos took charge with two converted tries in the first quarter and produced the more cohesive and structured rugby throughout.
Crocs have been relegated in the last two seasons and current coach Mark Walton already regards next Saturday’s trip to another of the early strugglers, West Park Leeds, as a crucial contest.
“It we lose to them we are in relegation danger six games in,” he said.
Crocs have continued to haemorrhage players and although there are some replacements - Walton thought ex-Halifax No 8 Luke Sturman was the pick yesterday - there are seemingly not enough of sufficient quality.
Cameron Brannon, Lewis Sharpe and Andy Wills all have injuries ahead of the West Park Leeds game and Walton conceded that “the cupboard is bare” is terms of replacements in their positions.
“We will just end up switching players around,” he said.
Crocs, who have one win on the board against Sheffield Medicals, soon discovered that Leos were better than their modest record suggested.
In front of a sparse crowd, both teams might have had a try in a lively opening.
The visitors drew first blood on 11 minutes when miscommunication between two Crocs players in attempting to field a kick landed their team in trouble. Ryan Sweeney’s attempted clearance was charged down by visiting scrum half Ed Farmer, who had the simple task of gathering the ball near the posts and touching down. Farmer converted.
The bounce of the ball favoured Leos when home scrum half Craig Heppenstall kicked through dangerously but there was nothing fortunate about the second try on 19 minutes.
Leos broke away down the bottom touchline and winger Stewart Norton produced some excellent support play to cross 10 metres to the right of the posts. Farmer harvested another two points with the conversion.
Crocs mounted concerted pressure through their forwards close to the Leos line but their attack lacked fluency and didn’t ask too many questions of the defence.
Play was even for a time with the interval arriving at an inopportune moment for Crocs, who were unable to take a lineout close to the Leos line.
Crocs continued to gain parity at the set piece and Navneet Sembi, used in short bursts, was their strongest runner.
Replacement referee Glen Cockcroft - a Crossley and Porter Grammar School pupil a long while back - did not appear to have many friends in the home crowd, but they breathed a sigh of relief when the official ruled that winger Gareth Sweeney’s knock on, which denied Leos a likely try, was a legitimate attempt to intercept.
Leos settled for Farmer’s 52nd minute penalty instead to move 17 points clear.
Crocs responded well, Joe Baker launching an attack continued by Jack Hammond. When a Leos played palmed the ball back over his own line, flanker Dwayne West dropped on it.
Ryan Sweeney’s sweet left foot added the conversion and a 58th minute penalty to make it 10-17 after 58 minutes.
Farmer moved the gap back out to 10 points with a 63rd minute penalty.
When visiting flanker Stuart Costello was yellow carded, Crocs still had an outside chance but Heppenstall tried to go it alone near the Leos line and possession was lost.
The visitors clinched victory in style with six minutes left. Mark McDaid cut through from an inside pass following a scrum near half-way and centre partner Tom Leddy was on his shoulder to cross at the side of the posts. Farmer converted.