Old Crossleyans are facing the stark reality of relegation to Yorkshire Three following their 34-24 defeat at Roundhegians yesterday.
Fellow strugglers Leodiensians secured a crucial win at Ripon and hold a four point advantage with the final round of fixtures to play.
Survival is still possible, with a home match against Pontefract to finish the season on April 22, but Crocs no longer control their own fate.
The game at The Memorial Ground was played in glorious sunshine but Crocs conceded three converted tries in the first 11 minutes.
To their credit, the Crocs’ response was magnificent. They scored three tries to reduce the gap to three points at half time and then drew level in the second half but were unable to sustain the recovery in the final 20 minutes.
Crocs were blitzed in the opening five minutes. Roundhegians opened up a 14-0 lead and looked like scoring every time they had ball in hand. They were running from deep, breaking tackles and employing excellent support play.
The away supporters feared the worst when they extended their lead on 11 minutes when Henry Wareham ran in unopposed under the posts. Alex Jones was again successful with the conversion for 21-0.
Instead of the anticipated avalanche of points, Crocs produced a storming fightback.
With ball in hand they were a transformed team. Devin Wells kicked deep into the opposition 22 and when Roundhegians’ lineout throw was not straight, Crocs scored from the resultant scrum. Cameron Brannan got the ball down following a driving maul and Ryan Sweeney converted.
On 20 minutes they were firmly back in the contest when Jack Hammond cut back against the Roundhegians’ cover and his pass found Gareth Sweeney in support to touch down under the posts. Ryan Sweeney’s kick made it 21-14 before Jones landed a penalty awarded for a high tackle.
Crocs wouldn’t lie down. A Wells pass found Billy Hammond on the left wing and his strength took him over in the corner despite the attempts of several defenders. A brilliant touchline conversion from Ryan Sweeney made it 24-21. Indeed, it could have been even better. Wells hacked a loose ball forward from half way but was beaten in a foot race by a Roundhegians’ defender who touched down in goal. Ryan Sweeney then failed with an ambitious penalty from the half way line.
The early action in the second half was even with play concentrated in midfield and the defences tightened up.
Jack Hammond drilled a grubber kick down the left wing to within five metres of the try line but Crocs couldn’t take advantage. Joe Wilkinson did extremely well to scramble back and concede a five metre scrum, from which Roundhegians didn’t score.
Crocs drew level with a Ryan Sweeney penalty for offside and Roundhegians were temporarily down to 14 men for a deliberate knock down but Crocs couldn’t take advantage.
Instead, Roundhegians regained the lead when Crocs were penalised for handling in the ruck.
This signalled a period of dominance for the home team and they extended their lead with 10 minutes remaining when James Dobson cut back inside a stretched defensive line and reached out to score beside the posts. The conversion made it 34-24.
Crocs went in search of a try which could have possibly secured two bonus points but a driving maul was held up.
With the last play of the match, they turned down a penalty and the possibility of a losing bonus point by not kicking at goal. Instead they kicked to the corner in search of two bonus points but the ball was spilled as it was spun wide.