NORTH WALES CRUSADERS end their 2017 campaign at home to Oxford on Sunday with coach Mike Grady urging his side to finish on a high.
The Cru have failed to reach the League One Shield final after disappointing defeats to Coventry Bears and Gloucestershire All Golds in the season’s second phase.
With a third placed finish secured and little else to play for, Grady has urged his players to play with pride and to replicate last weekend’s impressive derby performance against South Wales Ironmen.
The Cru ran out convincing 54-6 victors against the Ironmen, Ryan Smith scoring a hat-trick, with the coach insisting his players have set a benchmark for this weekend.
He said: “The performance last weekend was fantastic, especially in the first-half.
“We’ve set a benchmark for this Sunday’s performance now, but we have done that before this season and then not gone on to match it the following week so that is our goal.
“Last week meant a lot to the fans, players and staff, and now we want to finish on a high this weekend and go into pre-season on the back of two wins.
“We’ve spoken about where we need to improve next year already, and plans are starting to be put in place but first we need to finish this season well.
“We are obviously disappointed to not still be fighting for a finish in the top two, but that doesn’t take anything away for Sunday.
“Nobody wants to go into pre-season with a defeat hanging over them and after an inconsistent season, the least we can do is send the fans home happy on Sunday.
“I think that there is a positive feeling around next season, we’ve shown in spells this year just what we are capable of, but we’ll push on and improve for 2018.”
Oxford have endured a torrid campaign, which saw them slump to 11 consecutive defeats.
However, fortunes have recently turned with Sunday’s opponents picking up three points from their last three games.
Grady added: “Oxford will come here wanting to finish the season on a high as well.
“They aren’t going to be easy opponents and we can’t afford to be complacent after a big win last weekend.
“Oxford have had a mixed season as well but they’ve beaten Coventry last week so that sends a message to us of what they are capable of.”
Finally, Grady thanked the fans for their support during his first season in charge: “I want to thank all the supporters for their fantastic efforts during the season.
“Some results have been difficult to take, but we’ll learn from them and improve next year. It’s amazing to have such great support home and away, win lose or draw.”
Prior to Sunday’s game, North Wales Origin host a South Wales Select side at the Queensway Stadium with a 12.30pm kick-off.
The players will be aiming for a place in the Dragonhearts side that will take on Devon County away on October 1, before taking on the full Germany side in Wales on October 14 at a venue to be confirmed.
The final round of league fixtures start tomorrow when Coventry host the Ironmen.
In a precursor to the League One Shield final, leaders Hunslet host second-placed London Skolars on Sunday, while Hemel Stags visit the All Golds.
In the Super Eights, champions Toronto Wolfpack host Doncaster, Keighley Cougars visit second-placed Barrow, Workington host Cumbrian rivals Whitehaven, while Newcastle Thunder go to York City Knights.