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The Detroit Tradesmen faced down the challenge from the Cleveland Crusaders on Saturday in a bid to repeat as the division’s champions. The Tradesmen came out the winners by a margin of 57-36 after an 80-minute battle with the visiting Clevelanders.
During the match Saturday, the Tradesmen were primarily on offense. Speed and link play put the Tradesmen runners on the front foot and kept the opposition retreating on defense. Runners from Detroit would routinely go into contact only to offload to a supporting player who would continue the attacking movement. The Tradesmen fullback, Colin Tucker, benefitted the most from this, scoring five of his team’s tries in the process.
“Detroit came out of the gate fast,” said Donnie Harbert, head coach of the Cleveland Crusaders. “After 22 minutes, the score was already 26 to seven. This was a margin we continued to chase nearly all day.”
According to Harbert, his team put forth a commendable amount of effort and maintained a positive attitude throughout the match. When the Crusaders made mistakes the Tradesmen pounced. One consistent high point for the Cleveland side was matching the size and physicality of the Tradesmen.
Offense was a high point for the Tradesmen on Saturday, but defense and discipline left a bit to be desired. According to Jed Elley, head coach of the Tradesmen, having a sure-fire offense is symptomatic of how his team should operate while the lagging defense is not.
“We should score 50 points every week but we need to be prouder on defense and tighten up,” he said. “We leaked three tries in the last ten minutes. Cleveland played well and battled for 80 minutes. They looked organized and should also improve as the season progresses.”
When the Crusaders were able to score, both backs and forwards contributed to the effort. Wing Scott Wallace put the team’s first points on the board after ending a play with a long-distance run down the near sideline. Pat Rahill and Scott Liechty did the scoring for the forwards while Tyler Best and Nick Musarra sped by the defense to tack on some additional points.
The mental toughness for the Tradesmen down a bit on Saturday. On offense, that translated to backs being too flat when lining up to get the ball. The lack of depth disrupted the offensive timing and hindered how much ground runners could make. The pressure of the match also got to the Detroit players, resulting in penalties and cards coming out.
“We suffered a huge loss at the hand of foul play as our no. eight was punched in the face causing multiple fractures to his ocular bones,” Harbert said. “This injury will cause him to be out five weeks or more, and the decision from the disciplinary committee regarding the offending player will be anticipated.”
“We let ourselves down with discipline – the red card just before half time,” Elley said. “He will be punished accordingly. We do not condone foul play and we apologize on his behalf for this incident.”
Going forward, the Tradesmen will look to improve and progress. According to Elley, he will use his depth to make up for his red carded player and keep his team practicing together regularly to keep his players’ continuity and production high in pursuit of the team’s ultimate goal.
“Our goal is to win all our fall fixtures,” Elley said. “We look forward to hosting Pittsburgh after a bye weekend.”
Harbert plans to keep the Crusaders moving forward. He and his players will take the lessons from Saturday and apply them when training begins again in order to make the best of the remainder of the season.
“This is just one game,” Harbert said. “There is a lot of season left. Despite the loss, we took away a number of positive improvements, namely in our own discipline and fitness. There are still many good things ahead of us this season. We just have to dig back in, refocus and keep moving forward.”