It was the battle of the Crusaders in the third round of the Betfred Challenge Cup as Thatto Heath played hosts to North Wales in the game selected by the BBC for streaming to the nation.
The North Wales Crusaders made the sixty-mile trip to St Helens in the full knowledge that one of the top sides in the Premier Division of the National Conference League would be confident of taking their scalp.
The two sides last met in the fourth round of this competition in 2019 when Thatto Heath took the spoils with a 16-14 win and were rewarded with a fifth round trip to Dewsbury Rams. Heath beat Saddleworth Rangers in the last round while the North Wales side handed out a thrashing to the Royal Navy.
North Wales set out their stall from the kick off and took just two minutes to open the scoring when Jordan Andrade hit a gap and pushed his way over the line. Brad Billsborough added the conversion or a 6-0 lead.
Thatto Heath soon shrugged off the early disappointment and started to take the game to North Wales and as the half wore on they were spending the majority of the game on the offensive in the North Wales half.
North Wales had a couple of half breaks but great defence from the home side kept them at bay, the game was settling into a very even encounter.
Five minutes after the restart, and following good pressure from North Wales, a delightful offload from Chris Barrett found the willing hands of Dave Gibbons to go in from five metres out. Gibbons added the conversion to his own try for 12-0.
On fifty-one an amazing passage of play saw Thatto Heath register their first points of the game with a reverse pass under the post going off a couple of sets of hands Adam Carr to go in under the sticks. Jack Jones added the conversion, and the lead was back down to six points.
Thatto Heath were caught messing around in the tackle on their own twenty, Gibbons accepting the invitation to kick the penalty goal to edge North Wales into an eight-point lead.
With nine minutes remaining on the clock Dave Pike burrowed under the North Wales defence to force the ball to the ground. Jones was unable to add the conversion, the home side still four points adrift.
North Wales sealed the win as Thatto Heath tired, Ryan Ellis taking the pass and ambling through a broken defence to score. Gibbons added the conversion for 10-18.
North Wales were put through their paces by the community side and while they make progress into the fourth round they knew that they were in a game against a very capable side who didn’t give up until the final hooter sounded. The fitness of the semi-professionals counted in the end.
Thatto Heath Crusaders: Wood, McGahan, Saunders, Pike (T), Taylor, Jones (G), Reardon, Dudley, Kenny, Tracey, Sumner, Dwyer, Hesketh. Subs: Crehan, Yates, Carr (T), Ashcroft. 18th Man: .
North Wales Crusaders: Abel, Morley-Samuels, Reid, Sephton-Hulme, Wood, Gibbons (T, 3G), Billsborough, Andrade (T), Rainford, Barratt, Taylor, Ellis (T), Forster. Subs: Fletcher, Brennan, Houghton, Costello. 18th Man: Bloxham.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6 : HT : 0-10, 0-12, 4-12, 6-12, 6-14, 10-14, 10-18 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: North Wales.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas.