Skolars face Oxford on Sunday aiming to take 3rd place in League

Following last Friday’s excellent performance against North Wales Crusaders Skolars go into their last fixture of the regular league season at Oxford knowing three points will guarantee the club third spot in the Championsip 1 table and a home tie next week in the play-offs.

Oxford, who have given an impressive account of themselves in their first season at this level, will give late fitness tests to Michael Crabtree and Glenn Osborn, who are both struggling with shoulder problems.

Oxford are in sixth place, two points ahead of South Wales Scorpions going into Sunday’s fixtures.
Benson said: “Getting a good performance is the task at hand more than anything. “We’ve got to build some momentum, and if we can get a point or three then that would be even better.” He added: “I watched London last week and they were very impressive against North Wales. We know their quality and what we’re up against.”

A South Wales victory over Crusaders on Sunday and a Skolars victory at Oxford could  snatch Oxford’s play-off place away from them as the Scorpions would finish above them.

Skolars coach Joe Mbu has a fully fit squad to pick from as his side aims to secure a third-placed finish in the regular season. Mbu said: “I was pleased with how the players performed against Crusaders. “At this stage of the year it’s about keeping a calm head, and there hasn’t been a sense of panic when things haven’t gone for us recently. That shows the lads have matured, and hopefully they’ll keep on maturing over the coming weeks.”

Oxford v Skolars kicks off at 3.00pm on Sunday. London Skolars will announce play-off match and ticket details as soon as the final league positions are know.

As thousands of fans made the pilgrimage to Wembley for this year’s Challenge Cup Final, some of Skolars very own made a special trip up Wembley way for a day they will never forget.

Aita Kyunoshi of the club’s successful U19’s was chosen as London Skolars flag bearer for the pre-match parade. Each of the 96 clubs who started this year’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup were represented on the field as the two teams from Hull FC and Wigan Warriors stepped out onto the Wembley turf. The flag bearers stood guard as Abide With Me was belted out by the enthusiastic crowd and then returned to their seats to watch Wigan overcome in an error-strewn final.

This was not Skolars only representation through the day however. Community Coach Matt Cuss (pictured above with Sam Tomkins) was joined pitchside by U14’s players Joel Bateson, Ben Woodward and Tom Hamer as they were given the honour of being a ball boy for the day.
The Skolars lads were met by Matt at the ground and along with 12 other lads from across the junior London RL clubs were ushered into the bowels of the stadium, to their very own dressing room, just yards away from Wigan and Hull’s. After being given a brief introduction to their roles by match commissioner Gerry Kershaw, Joel, Ben and Tom were all kitted out with their very own ‘Ball Boy’ uniforms and led pitchside to familarise themselves with their fantastic setting. The lads had the luxury of a practice game, using the Champion Schools Year 7 final as a warm up to get used to what they would soon be doing in front of millions of people.

After the schools games had finished, a quick lunch was wolfed down and the boys were giving a few words of advice from the match-officials – it was time for the main event. Walking out in front of 76,000 people alongside some of the world’s best players was just a surreal experience and one which may never be replicated. Matt Cuss commented “watching the game from pitchside gave me a whole new perspective on how tough the game actually is, the noise was incredible and you can see why the players love playing at Wembley so much, it was a fantastic occasion. The boys were all a credit to London Skolars and London RL and were warmly congratulated after the match for the superb job they did.” The lads left Wembley stadium that evening clutching the match-balls that they were allowed to keep and with memories that will last forever.”

Skolars gained a valuable bonus point on Friday Night and moved into third place. A win next weekend against Oxford would ensure they finish in third place and gain home advantage in the first round of play-offs.

However, they couldn’t quite stop North Wales Crusaders moving one step closer to the league title, in a high intensity game and the largest crowd of the season at New River were treated to an uncompromising and entertaining game on a very humid night.

Skolars dominated the opening twenty minutes. Crusaders rarely had meaningful possession in the early stages. Dave Williams offloaded to James Anthony on the 20 metre for Skolars’ first try, one of several decisions for the video referee.

Skolars went over the line again soon afterwards after Andy McLean picked up a loose ball from a Dylan Skee bomb but was ruled out due to Tommy Johnson having been tackled in the air.

A Gareth Raynor break gave Skolars good field position from their next set, Skee’s bomb landed over the tryline and went dead, but he had been hit by a late tackle that went on report. The penalty was awarded on the 10 metre line and whilst games at New River have been high scoring this season, Skolars were mindful that this game was going to be tight and Skee kicked the penalty.

Skolars missed out again when John Paxton’s pass to Smokie Junor two metres out went forward.

Crusaders also had to contend with Adam Scott limping off soon after having replaced Simon Stephens and so Stephens had to return to the field for an extra stint. He and Jono Smith were probably the hardest grafting forwards for the Welsh as they worked their way into the game.

They finally opened their account on the half hour when Jono Smith pushed his way over the line. They took a narrow lead into the break. Although most of the crowd saw a clear forward pass on the right, the touch judge saw otherwise. Skolars didn’t play to the whistle and a short pause within the defence gave Crusaders the chance to advance down the centre. They were then in a good position to move the ball to the left and Leon Brennan went over. Tommy Johnson kicked his second conversion with Jamie Dallimore missing a drop goal attempt as the hooter sounded.

Skolars regained the lead when Dylan Skee snook under the defence from close range. But they had to withstand some continued pressure as Crusaders forced two goal line drop outs, though they had to well to stop the second Skee restart finding touch on the halfway line.

The pressure told and finally Crusaders went ahead again when Dave McConnell slipped the ball out for Toby Adamson to score. Johnson again converted and Dallimore again missed with a drop goal attempt soon afterwards. With tension rising both sides started to make handling errors. Skolars were in good position when Anthony’s pass to Skee went astray and then a Jono Smith break saw Jonny Walker lose the ball just short of the tryline.

Crusaders steadied things with a Johnson penalty. As they reached the halfway line, Raynor put in a hard tackle that dislodged the ball, but the touchjudge ruled that he had knocked the ball down. Skolars were unhappy with conceding the scrum and then conceded a penalty for dissent.

That gave Crusaders some breathing space, but whilst they missed two drop goal attempts, through Smith and Dallimore, their defence stood firm to seal the vital win.

James Anthony won the Man of the Match award sponsored by The Mall, Wood Green Shopping City

1 James Anthony
2 Smokie Junor
4 John Paxton
3 Joe Price
33 Gareth Raynor
26 Andy McLean
7 Dylan Skee
30 Michael Sykes
31 Jermaine Wray
10 David Williams
27 Sam Wellings
12 Mike Worrincy
13 Olly Purslow

Subs (all used)
9 Martyn Smith
14 Oliver Bloom
Tries: Anthony (3), Skee (47)
Goals: Skee 3/3

1 Tommy Johnson
32 Dan Birkett
3 Christiaan Roets
4 Leon Brennan
5 Rob Massam
6 Andy Moulsdale
33 Jamie Dallimore
8 Johnny Walker
14 Dave McConnell
21 Simon Stephens
15 Toby Adamson
12 Gary Middlehurst
29 Stephen Bannister

Subs (all used)
13 Jono Smith
19 Adam Scott
16 Ryan MacDonald
25 Owain Griffiths

Tries: Smith (29), Brennan (36), Adamson (60)
Goals: Johnson 4/4

Penalty count: 5-5

Half-time: 8-12
Referee: Peter Brooke
Attendance: 1,276

SCORING SEQUENCE: 6-0, 8-0, 8-6, 8-12, 14-12, 14-18, 14-20

The most eagerly anticipated Friday Night Lights game ever is now only a matter of hours away and, for both team taking part, there is potentially a lot at stake.

North Wales Crusaders currently sit second in the table, four points behind leaders Oldham but with two games in hand. They will be looking for the win that takes them closer to clinching top spot and automatic promotion to the Championship. Crusaders last game is against South Wales Scorpions. A point against Skolars will leave them needing a win against their Welsh rivals.

Skolars, having already qualified for the play-offs, are now striving to take third place and secure home advantage when the play-offs start. A point for Skolars would leave them needing a win against Oxford next week and a win tonight would leave the club seeeking just a point to take third place. So, all in all, there is a lot riding on the result of this game.

North Wales coach Clive Griffiths has no new injury concerns as his side go into their final two league games of the season knowing four points will secure the Kingstone Press Championship One title.

Griffith said: “We’ve got to get something out of this game to take it to the last match of the season. We can’t come away without a point.”

He added: “Take a deep breath. If somebody had said to you 18 months ago that Crusaders would be pushing for promotion, you’d have laughed, but that’s the position we’re in.”

On Skolars, he said: “There’ve grown, recruited strongly and benefited from dual registration this year. They’ll be a tough nut to crack, there’s no doubt about that.”

Skolars coach Joe Mbu could name an unchanged side following last weekend’s emphatic win at Hemel. A key player for Skolars could be Dylan Skee, named this week as Premier Sports Championship 1 player of the week following his performance at Hemel. Commenting on Skee’s award winning performance Joe Mbu had this to say: “Dylan and Michael Worrincy were both excellent. Dylan’s one of those players who always seems to go well. He’s always pushing in training, making sure other people are doing the right things as well as himself.”

London Skolars v North Wales Crusaders kicks off at 6.30pm. Tickst priced at £12 and £6 are available at the ticket office this evening.

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