Ladies and Gentlemen, the first York City Knights team to win a Championship Play-Off.
The Knights stunned Halifax Panthers at The Shay this evening, in front of the Premier Sports cameras, with a 26-24 victory much the jubilation of both the players and supporters.
Going into the game with twelve players out through injury, the Knights lined up with Jamie Ellis in the halves alongside Liam Harris – the former making his first appearance since defeat at Leigh – with Bailey Antrobus and Danny Kirmond in the back-row. Captain Chris Clarkson moved to loose-forward with the impressive Jordan Thompson moving to prop.
Against odds-on favourites in Halifax, the Knights were hit with Kirmond being sent to the sin-bin for a late-hit on former Knights loanee Joe Keyes. Despite that, James Ford’s men hit the front with James Glover kicking a penalty awarded to the Knights for a high tackle.
Halifax, though, scored two quickfire tries to take control of the match in Kirmond’s absence. First, back-rower Ben Kavanagh ran a great line against the grain to go through a gap before impressive winger Lachlan Walmsley finished a neat move. Keyes converted the latter, giving the hosts a 10-2 lead.
The Knights then hit back with two tries of their own.
First, Joe Brown finished a tidy set play, touching down in the corner, before Will Jubb levelled the scores after the video official awarded the try. Harris’ grubber to the in goal was fumbled and then kicked by Walmsley with Jubb simply having to dot the ball down. Glover converted the latter and, with twenty-five minutes on the clock, the Knights led 12-10.
Two further tries from Walmsley – in the 32nd and 40th minutes – completed a first-half hat-trick and Keyes’ boot ensured the hosts had a ten-point lead at the break.
Halifax had, in both previous encounters this season, scored points in bunches and the travelling Knights contingent must have feared the same ahead of the second period.
This Knights showing, however, was a very different beast to those previous showings and, when Harris scored the first points of the second period with a great finish, the momentum was firmly with the Knights.
After Tom Inman – impressive once again from the bench – kicked a superb forty-twenty – Clarkson, slotting in at half-back following Ellis’ injury – fed the returning Levi Edwards. The Leeds loanee had work to do but, after another video referral, saw his effort awarded.
That try levelled the scores at 22 apiece shortly after the fifty-minute mark but Halifax were able to wrestle control back and Keyes kicked a penalty to edge the Panthers in front in the 60th minute.
Glover, however, followed suit a couple of sets later, knocking one of his own over from bang in front – this one coming after a missed drop-goal attempt from the otherwise impressive Harris.
Then, with ten minutes left, the match-winner was scored.
Joe Porter, producing another of his workhorse-like performances in the middle, saw the ball stolen on halfway. Glover, not lacking in confidence, opted to go for goal.
The Halifax fans did their best to put him off but, when the supporters behind the opposite set of sticks fell silent, it was clear that the former Sheffield centre’s kick was on track. It sailed over the sticks to put the Knights in front.
In the dying stages, the Panthers decided to kick towards their left, inviting Walmsley into aerial challenges with Brown. The Knight was able to come up with the goods and, with seconds left on the clock, the ball fell to Harris – to kill the game against his former team.
Running the ball back towards the in-goal, he booted the ball out to cue mass celebrations from the Knights contingent on the pitch and in the stands.
These City Knights, they’re made of stern stuff. Next stop: Leigh Centurions.
Halifax Panthers Line-Up: James Woodburn-Hall, Lachlan Walmsley, Greg Worthington, Zack McComb, James Saltonstall, Louis Jouffret, Joe Keyes, Will Calcott, Brandon Moore, Dan Murray, Ben Kavanagh, Ed Barber, Adam Tangata
Interchanges: Jacob Fairbank, Matty Gee, Titus Gwaze, Kyle Wood
Tries: Kavanagh (9’), Walmsley (13’, 32’, 40’)
Conversions: Keyes (3/4)
Penalties: Keyes (60’)
York City Knights Line-Up: Matty Marsh, Joe Brown, James Glover, Levi Edwards, AJ Towse, Liam Harris, Jamie Ellis, Jack Teanby, Will Jubb, Jordan Thompson, Danny Kirmond, Bailey Antrobus, Chris Clarkson
Interchanges: Tom Inman, Joe Porter, Ronan Michael, Ben Barnard
Tries: Brown (19’), Jubb (25’), Harris (45’), Edwards (52’)
Conversions: Glover (3/4)
Penalties: Glover (8‘, 64’, 71’)
Sin-bin: Kirmond (3’)