York City Knights made it six consecutive wins in the Betfred Championship with a sweet victory over rivals Bradford Bulls, recording a 6-20 win at Odsal thanks to another strong defensive showing that kept our hosts to nil until the last minute of a bruising encounter.
After a weekend off, the Knights went in fresh and saw just the one change to the team that beat Barrow Raiders in front of the Premier Sports cameras, with Pauli Pauli starting his two-game ban and Ronan Dixon coming into the starting pack with Marcus Stock going onto the interchange bench.
This was far from a vintage attacking performance from the Knights, but Bradford also coughed up possession in good ball and the scoreboard remained untroubled for the first twenty-five minutes of the match.
The biggest talking point in the opening quarter of the game saw Jacob Ogden have to leave the field of play after a high tackle from Bradford’s Sam Hallas. The Knights centre couldn’t return and saw captain Chris Clarkson play almost seventy minutes in the centres – but it was the man out of position that opened the scoring.
After being camped in Bradford’s half, Brendan O’Hagan and Matty Marsh linked up to put Clarkson into space on the left. Showing composure and good footwork, our captain got the better of Jordan Lilley to spin over the line to open the scoring. Liam Harris was unable to convert from the touchline but the Knights held onto the lead at the break.
The early part of the second period saw Bradford have the first real chance to score. With the wide last tackle kick knocked backwards by former Bull Joe Brown, the ball bounced favourably for Bulls winger Joe Burton and the wide man raced clear, getting deep into Knights territory.
An excellent covering tackle from Marsh stopped a certain try, but saw our full-back sent to the sin-bin after slowing play down at the play the ball.
Bradford, however, weren’t able to profit from the man advantage – in the same way that the Knights couldn’t in the first period – and, instead, it was the visitors who extended their lead despite being a man down.
With Bradford working play left, a pass to centre Kieran Gill went to ground. The former Newcastle man retrieved but James Glover and Danny Kirmond forced a knock on. Hooker Will Jubb was first to the loose ball and was able to outstrip a Bulls man for pace to score our second of the game.
Harris’ conversion attempt missed to the left in the fiftieth minute but the Knights – despite not shining with the ball – were good value for the lead owing to their defensive prowess.
Errors from both teams littered the following ten minutes, preventing either team from asserting any sort of dominance. In the sixty-eighth minute, though, the Knights scored a crucial try, one that really took the game away from Bradford.
O’Hagan, impressive throughout, worked his way across the field on Bradford’s ten-metre line. He showed, then showed again… and then injected serious pace into his run to dart through the Bulls’ defensive line, diving over the line for our third try.
Jamie Ellis, off the bench in place of Harris, converted to give the Knights a 0-14 lead and, in the last ten, Kirmond added a gloss to the scoreline.
Running over Bulls defenders in the middle, the experienced forward was then able to round full-back Kear to score under the sticks in a similar effort to his hundredth career try against the same opponents last season.
Ellis converted and the Knights led by twenty. The only blot on the copybook came in the dying embers of the game when Elliott Hall crossed for a try on Bradford’s left and, with the hooter sounding, Dec Patton converted from the touchline.
Bradford may have avoided being nilled at home and scored six points, but it was the Knights who left with the all-important two to keep trundling on in this year’s Betfred Championship competition.
KNIGHTS LINE-UP: Matty Marsh, Joe Brown, James Glover, Jacob Ogden, Will Oakes, Brendan O’Hagan, Liam Harris, Masi Matongo, Will Jubb, Ronan Dixon, Danny Kirmond, Chris Clarkson, Jordan Thompson.
INTERCHANGES: Jamie Ellis, Jack Teanby, Marcus Stock, Joe Porter
TRIES: Chris Clarkson (26‘), Will Jubb (50’), Brendan O’Hagan (68’), Danny Kirmond (76’)
GOALS: Liam Harris (0/2), Jamie Ellis (2/2)
BRADFORD BULLS: Elliot Kear, Elliot Hall, Matty Dawson-Jones, Kieran Gill, Joe Burton, Dec Patton, Jordan Lilley, Jordan Baldwinson, Thomas Doyle, Steve Crossley, Chester Butler, AJ Wallace, Sam Hallas.
INTERCHANGES: Brad England, Muizz Mustapha, Ebon Scurr, Ant Walker
TRIES: Elliot Hall (80‘)
GOALS: Dec Patton (1/1)