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RAF progress as Crusaders fall as first hurdle

North Herts Crusaders welcomed the RAF to Hitchin as they played in the Coral Challenge Cup for the first time in their history.

The Air Force knew that it would be a tough test in the near-Arctic conditions.

Crusaders were the slower to start with the wind against them and the RAF took full advantage with full-back Jiutu Tupua stepped to the outside of his defender to give the visitors an early lead. Elliott Kerry added converted.

North Herts were the more physically dominant in the opening stages and prevented the RAF from crossing the whitewash on many an occasion.

However, the RAF uses the wind to their advantage kicking themselves deep into Crusaders territory.

This set the platform for half-backs Elliott Kerry and Adam Flintham to run the show. It was the former who took control as he sniped over from five metres out to make it 0-10.

That’s how it stayed until half-time but the RAF were not short of chances but North Herts held their own on their goal-line.

Half-Time: North Herts Crusaders 0-10 Royal Air Force

With the wind behind them in the second-half, Crusaders were looking to pull the RAF back but a half-break from Kev Raqio allowed him to release Phil Laycock who raced under the posts to stretch the lead.

North Herts still couldn’t get their attacking game to click and struggled inside the opposition 20 while also giving away penalties in defence.

Just a couple of minutes after their third, the away side scores their fourth, scored by number four, Harry Marks.

A third tackle play was spread over to the right hand edge and the centre go on the outside of Alex Nolan in defence and managed to dot down just to the right of the posts.

Elliott Kerry took his personal tally to ten as he converted both tries to make it 0-22 after just 50 minutes.

Further chances for the RAF followed but Nolan and right-winger Josh Dell were solid in defence denying the away side.

The following ten minutes of the game was very back and forth. This was until the Air Force were handed a yellow card.

Clarke McAllister was sent to the sin-bin after persistent offending from the Royal Air Force left them on a team warning.

Crusaders then made the most of the extra man and in the 73rd minutes of the game finally got some points in the board.

The ever-impressive Oli Turner bulldozed his way over the RAF defence from five metres out. Ben Doughty added the extras and their was hope for the Crusaders and their supporters.

However, the RAF stepped up their defensive efforts once more and stopped the Crusaders dead in their tracks.

The away side nearly managed to score a fifth try but Josh Dell dragged Chris Ambo into touch and the game was all but over.

Referee Connor Astbury blew the final whistle and the Royal Air Force progressed to the second round of the Coral Challenge Cup.

Full-time: North Herts Crusaders 6-22 Royal Air Force

Man of the Match:

Dan Collinson – The second-rower was superb in both attack and defence. Big tackles and hard running put the RAF on the front foot.

Squads:

North Herts Crusaders:

Jared Scott, Josh Dell, Alex Nolan, Mac J. Cockburn, Matthew Houlden, Ben Doughty, Craig Jones, Ben Cullen, Ollie Adams, OscR Robinson, Oli Turner, Joe Allison, Thomas Hamer

Subs: Luke Blackman, Will Clifford, Robin French, Max Stallard

Scorers:

Tries: Oli Turner

Goals: Ben Doughty (1/1)

Royal Air Force:

Jiutu Tupua, Si Wray, James Hutchinson, Harry Marks, Chris Ambo, Elliott Kerry, Adam Flintham, Sam Roberts, Liam Bradley, James Husband, Dan Collinson, Phil Laycock, Kev Raqio.

Subs: Tom Moor, Clarke McAllister, Ben Mellor, Kieren Walker.

Tries: Jiutu Tupua, Harry Marks, Elliott Kerry, Phil Laycock

Goals: Elliott Kerry (3/4)

Yellow Cards: Clarke McAllister

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