Thatto Heath Crusaders paid Heysham Atoms a huge compliment by playing five first team regulars against them on Saturday, paying them huge respect, as the St Helen side ran out 38-26 winners.
The Atoms weren’t in any mood to respect reputations and ripped right into the Crusaders straight from the kick off.
On six minutes the Atoms gained a deserved lead as popular workhorse Leandro Kwiczor crashed over from short range, Michael Forrest converted to give the Atoms an early 6-0.
On 10 minutes the Atoms increased their lead as captain Jamie Cottle stepped inside the cover to score the second try and his eighth of the season.
This stirred the St Helens outfit into action and their National Conference Premier half back began to influence play with his accurate wide passing game, cutting out the Atoms middle defenders.
Both Atoms’ edges were now tested and they conceded tries on either wing.
The final score of a close but exciting half saw Thatto gain the lead for the first time in the game, splitting the Atoms right down the middle, scoring under the crossbar to make it 14-10 at half-time.
The Atoms have experienced problems in securing possession directly from kick offs and again it raised its ugly head, knocking on the first play.
Thatto took advantage of this unforced error and scored their fourth try and pushed their lead out to 20-10 without having to work too hard for it.
Outstanding second row Al Crookall was re-discovering his running prowess and he cut a strong line first hit up from a penalty.
It looked like he was held up over the line by three defenders but he skilfully spun out of their clutches to score to the left of the posts.
The next play was another Atoms error as the ball found its way to the touchline off an Atoms player.
As before, these quality players take advantage of gifts like this and the St Helens side made the gap 10 points again with another try.
The Atoms really dug deep into their energy stocks and brought the scores level at 26-26 with a massive amount of effort and enthusiasm and no little skill.
The spirits were lifted with a smart handling move across the three quarters putting the winger in at the corner.
Then the Atoms constructed the try of the game when stand off Jake Harrison skirted across the line, showing the ball to two inside runners before a great timed pass to Forrest who carved his way through the line and won the foot race to touch down.
The next period of the game was most crucial and the Atoms just couldn’t break the stranglehold on their line.
Thatto showed patience and it took five full sets to break a heroic Atoms rearguard action but this amount of pressure takes its toll.
On 73 minutes Thatto broke the Atoms’ hearts, scoring the decisive converted try and with it the game.
The Atoms went down to 12 for the final five minutes and Thatto scored with the final play of the game to give the scoreline a bit of a flattering look.