Whitehaven returned to the top of the League One table as they held off a North Wales Crusaders comeback to grind out a 28-14 victory.

The visitors didn’t need to do anything pretty in this success over North Wales, but they made good yards up the middle and were clinical whenever they found themselves in decent field position, particularly in the first half.

Marc Shackley and Kris Coward both punched plenty of holes through Crusaders’ defence, while Sam Dowsett caused issues around the ruck throughout the clash and crossed for a deserved try.

The halves, meanwhile, applied composure needed towards the back end as they managed the game professionally to see out the victory.

Gary Charlton’s men had plenty of joy down the left and constantly targeted that particular flank during the opening 40 minutes.

But, after Haven had found themselves 24-2 up eight minutes into the second half, Crusaders brought the score back to within 10 points and were arguably the better side for the remainder of the match, threatening to reduce their deficit further on a number of occasions.

Ultimately, though, they left it too late and it was Haven’s extra bit of quality when it mattered that proved to be the difference.

Whitehaven had the first opportunity of the match as they assaulted the left flank, but Andrew Bulman was forced into touch as he tried to dive over in the corner.

Rob Massam had a similar effort chalked off for Crusaders as Haven’s right edge defence did well to keep out the Welsh international winger.

Crusaders were then given a penalty for interference in the ruck and opted to kick for goal, with Ben Stead giving the hosts a 2-0 lead.

Haven soon responded, though, as Sam Forrester broke through North Wales’ defence and fended off a couple of tackles on his way to the line.

In their next set near Crusaders’ line, the visitors built on their advantage when hooker Dowsett managed to crash over from acting half down the left flank.

After a sustained spell of pressure on the away side’s line, North Wales were pulled up for two penalties and Haven opted to kick the second one, with Jacob Moore extending the lead to 12-2.

Haven assaulted the left side once again and Chris Taylor managed to force his way over in the corner, despite the attention of few Crusaders defenders.

The visitors attempted to stretch their lead by another two points on the half-time hooter, but Moore’s kick flew wide of the sticks.

In the early stages of the second half, North Wales conceded a penalty for an incorrect play-the-ball while in possession, with Moore kicking a goal to take Haven’s lead to 18-2.

It didn’t take long for the Cumbrians to add another try as they chipped over the defence on the last play, Jessie Joe Parker collected and he handed the ball on to Callum Phillips, who had enough pace to finish next to the sticks.

However, North Wales hit back through captain Kenny Baker, who ran on to a short pass from Kenny Hughes to bulldoze his way over.

It was game on soon after as Crusaders added another, with Massam collecting Steve Roper’s kick to the corner to dive over.

At this point, North Wales were beginning to throw the ball around a lot more and Haven looked as though they were tiring.

Baker made a break up the middle of the pitch, only to be ankle tapped a couple of metres short of the line.

Although the hosts had a couple of other opportunities to claw back the deficit further and turn the match around, the visitors managed to keep them out and they wrapped the match up late on through Bulman, who wrestled his way out of a tackle to finish acrobatically in the corner.