York City Knights produced a heroic defensive display in the second period to leave Cumbria with the two points this evening in front of the Premier Sports cameras, defeating Barrow Raiders 18-30 at Craven Park.
For the first twenty minutes of the second period, the Knights had to defend solely in their twenty with the Raiders forcing several repeat sets. The fact that the period of pressure was withstood showed the togetherness and cohesion within this Knights squad and, when Liam Harris crossed in the 65th minute, the celebrations from the Knights off-field staff spoke volumes.
In the calm of pre-match, Head Coach James Ford brought Will Oakes, Jamie Ellis and Joe Porter back into the matchday seventeen with Levi Edwards, Sam Davis and Marcus Stock dropping out.
The Knights came into the game on a five-game winning streak but went behind in the opening ten minutes when Anton Iaria crossed under the sticks, reaching out his right arm to dot the ball down under the sticks. Jarrod Sammut – a surprise inclusion after being rushed to hospital during the Raiders’ last game against Halifax Panthers – converted.
Barrow looked to be threatening a second try minutes later when they worked the ball to their left but the quick hands gave Joe Brown a ball to compete for in the air. Compete he did and, from halfway, the former Bradford man ran in from halfway. Harris converted shortly after the tenth minute to level up preceedings.
Chris Clarkson, so consistent so far in 2022, has led the Knights on the field throughout the strong start to the season and was instrumental in our second try. With the ball worked from the centre of the field to our left, Matty Marsh and Chris Clarkson linked up to put Oakes in to give us the lead in the twenty-first minute.
Harris couldn’t convert and the next score would see the Knights relinquish that lead when Sammut and full-back Luke Cresswell linked up.
After a great tackle from James Glover shut down play, reading Barrow’s attack well, the next play saw Sammut put in a smart reverse kick that saw Cresswell beat Marsh to the ball. After the Maltese half-back’s conversion, the hosts led at Craven Park.
A similar try from the Knights, however, saw Ford’s men back into the lead.
In the thirty-first minute, Harris and Marsh realised there was no full-back behind the line and the former’s kick over the top put the latter in a foot-race with Cresswell, the Knights man reaching the ball to score our third. Harris converted and the Knights would score next.
In the thirty-seventh minute, Jordan Thompson – again impressive and named Premier Sports’ man of the match – ran a great reverse line, similar to his try against Workington, to go over unopposed. Harris’ conversion gave us a ten point lead at the break, leading 12-22 after the first forty.
The start of the second half saw the Knights’ mettle really tested. After a Pauli Pauli break saw the forward penalised for a forward pass to Marsh, Barrow preceded to have a twenty minute spell of sheer dominance. Only herculean defensive efforts from the Knights, both collectively and individually, kept the Raiders at bay.
Stand-outs in the period that would have left the Premier Sports viewers and Barrow contingent aghast at how they couldn’t breach the Knights’ defence was a superb last-gasp tackle from Thompson when big forward Sam Eseh looked set to crash over under the sticks after running a great line, as well as Liam Harris’ sublime one-on-one challenge to stop former Super League man Ryan Shaw at point-blank range.
With Barrow gassed after expending huge energy in attempts to break down the Knights’ defence, York were able to get more of a grasp on the game and, in the sixty-fifth minute, Thompson went close to a second of the evening. He was stopped short but, from dummy-half, Harris was able to force his way over.
His conversion gave the Knights a 12-28 lead with fifteen minutes remaining and, after kicking a further two points in the seventy-third minute with Barrow guilty of a high tackle, the eighteen point lead proved unassailable for the hosts.
Gary Wheeler was able to narrow the deficit in the closing minutes with Sammut converting, but that couldn’t dampen the celebrations of the Knights’ players, staff and fans at Craven Park.
After a magnificent defensive showing from the Knights, an eighth Betfred Championship win of 2022 sees the Knights consolidate third spot with confidence only growing among the group.
KNIGHTS LINE UP: Matty Marsh, Joe Brown, James Glover, Jacob Ogden, Will Oakes, Brendan O’Hagan, Liam Harris, Masi Matongo, Will Jubb, Pauli Pauli, Chris Clarkson, Danny Kirmond, Jordan Thompson.
INTERCHANGES: Jamie Ellis, Ronan Dixon, Joe Porter, Jack Teanby
TRIES: Joe Brown (11’), Will Oakes (21’), Matty Marsh (31’), Jordan Thompson (37’), Liam Harris (65’)
CONVERSIONS: Liam Harris (4/5)
PENALTY: Liam Harris (73’)
BARROW LINE UP: Luke Cresswell, Tee Ritson, Gary Wheeler, Ryan Shaw, Shane Toal, Jake Carter, Jarrod Sammut, Sam Brooks, Josh Woods, Ellis Gillam, Danny Langtree, Jarrad Stack, Anton Iaria.
INTERCHANGES: Nathan Mossop, Sam Eseh, Jack Wells, Charlie Emslie
TRIES: Anton Iaria (6’), Luke Cresswell (27’), Gary Wheeler (77’)
CONVERSIONS: Jarrod Sammut (3/3)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Matty Marsh