PREVIEW: SWINTON LIONS V NORTH WALES CRUSADERS
18 January 2019
Swinton Lions will play hosts to League One outfit North Wales Crusaders this Sunday, in the second of three pre-season friendlies.
The Lions return to Heywood Road for the first time in 2019 as they host North Wales Crusaders in their second pre-season friendly.
Stuart Littler’s side continue to prepare for the competitive 2019 competition with a tough home friendly against challenging League One side North Wales Crusaders.
Swinton Lions opened their 2019 account against Super League’s Salford Red Devils at the AJ Bell Stadium, where Ian Watson’s side came away with 52-6 victory, giving Lions a strong test ahead of the Championship season.
The pre-season clash also saw 300 proud Swinton fans make the trip to support the Lions for the first time of the year.
The local derby at the AJ Bell Stadium saw nine debuts for the Lions, including Michael Ratu’s return to the field for the first time in two years and only Joe Digby missed out on his debut due to injury.
Scotland international Oscar Thomas linked with halfback partner Rob Fairclough for the first time, whilst winger Mike Butt scored the first Lions try of 2019.
Promising signs were on display for Swinton, with Matty Ashton, Frankie Halton and Ashley Warne making the step up from the amateur game, following in the steps of the likes of Aaron Hall and Chris Worrall.
North Wales Crusaders finished the 2018 League One season in 10th position, and Head Coach Anthony Murray has strengthened his side ahead of the 2019 season.
Rochdale Hornets duo Rob Massam and Earl Hurst joined the Wrexham-based side during the off-season, whilst former Wigan Warrior and Huddersfield Giants forward Stephen Wild adds experience to the side after re-joining the Welsh team.
St Helens Academy product Kenny Hughes also joins the side from league opposition Oldham RLFC, and Karl Ashall returned mid-way through 2018 from Championship outfit Barrow Raiders.
Tickets are available at the gates on the day, with the prices set at Adults £14.00, Concessions £10.00 and Kids £3.00.
The last time the two sides met was 2015, Swinton’s promotion-winning year.
The sides drew 14-14 at Sedgley Park, before the Lions lost out on cup glory in the iPro Cup Final at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road, during the 2015 Summer Bash.
However, revenge was served away at the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham, with Swinton taking the points with a 30-14 victory.
Swinton Lions Head Coach Stuart Littler spoke to LionsTV following the first hit-up of 2019 at AJ Bell Stadium.
“North Wales is a challenge and Anthony Murray coaches really well. They have some players that have been around the Championship and he’s recruited really well this year. They always come with a voice of support so I’m expecting a big voice of support to Heywood Road. It’s another challenge for us on our home pitch. We need to be better at home this year than we were last year. I don’t want to talk about last year too much, but it’s a new year. it’s 2019 and we’re rolling on.”
On the Swinton Lions fans, Littler added: “They’re an outstanding group of fans and the 300 here today were very loud. They gave a good account of themselves and all looked to be in replica jerseys or some sort of scarf or hat for the Lions. It was really good to see and hopefully we can grow that throughout the year and get them all down to Heywood Road and make it our fortress.”
Swinton’s squad remains almost unchanged from last weekend’s clash at the AJ Bell, bar the absence of Harry Aaronson who dislocated his elbow. Kyle Shelford and Joe Digby also miss out with continued short-term injuries.
LIONS SQUAD TO FACE CRUSADERS: Matty Ashton, Ben Austin, Gavin Bennion, Billy Brickhill, Mike Butt, Rob Fairclough, Ryan Gray, Aaron Hall, Jack Hansen, Frankie Halton, Lewis Hatton, Will Hope, Adam Jones, Paddy Jones, Jose Kenga, Rhodri Lloyd, Oscar Thomas, Mike Ratu, Luke Waterworth, Ashley Warne, Daley Williams, Chris Worrall.
CRUSADERS SQUAD TO FACE LIONS: Price, Massam, Hurst, Reid, Conroy, Stead, Roper, Thompson, Ashall, Baker, Atherton, Houghton, Wild, Hudson, Walker, Hughes, Bate, Brennan, Ecclestone, Jones, Beckett, Connor.