Thatto Heath came from behind to get the better of a pulsating contest at the Trimpell Club on Saturday in what was a fantastic advert for North West Men’s League rugby.
Just one score was the difference in the league cup tie as the Atoms made nine changes - eight on the field and one on the coaching staff - from their heavy opening day defeat at Irlam.
It didn’t look like being a close encounter as the Atoms went 12 points up inside the first six minutes.
Man of the match Al Crookall spun out of a tackle to score the first after a great break from full back Chris Thomas before Mark Walker scored the second in similar fashion.
But it was going to be far from an easy afternoon for the Atoms as the St Helens outfit woke from their slumber and hit back with two quick-fire tries to level things up.
The try of the half came from Atoms centre Dan Ginnochio who claimed an accurate Neil Walker kick out of half back to place the ball down over the try line.
The last try of an exciting half was claimed by the Crusaders’ right centre who sprinted 60 yards to score to give his side an 18-16 lead at the break.
The Atoms lost Mark Walker to a hip injury shortly after the break but it didn’t halt their progress as defensive pressure forced the visitors to spill the ball in possession allowing Andrew Collins to run 70 yards for a spectacular try.
After a scrappy few minutes Dan Helme then crossed for his first try of the season with Stuart Lacey’s third conversion giving the Atoms a narrow 26-24 lead entering the final quarter.
It got better for the hosts when an exceptional piece of skill from Collins released Kai Davis to score in the left corner.
But the game continued to twist and turn, Thatto’s man mountain of a prop forcing his way over to level things up at 30-30 with 10 minutes to play.
Five minutes later the Atoms were down to 12 after an altercation at a scrum and it was another set piece that ultimately decided the contest.
The visitors nudged an Atoms scrum forward and the ball squirted out of the side before being hacked forward and touched down by the St Helens side.
There was still time for one final piece of excitement, with Collins unlucky to pulled back for a knock on in the final play of the game.
The Atoms will go in search of their first win of the season when they return to league action at Saddleworth next Saturday.
Heysham Atoms: Thomas, M Short, Collins, Ginocchio, Davis, S Lacey, Helme, J Short, N Walker, O’Donnell, Crookall, C Lacey, M Walker. Replacements: Wyke, Sharples, Maguire, MacIntyre