The Knights fell to a third consecutive defeat against Betfred Championship Play-Off rivals on Monday evening with Batley Bulldogs leaving the LNER Community Stadium with the two league points after a 32-16 victory.
Coming off the back of losses at home to Barrow Raiders and away to Halifax Panthers, the Knights were under a bit of pressure to deliver a good performance but disappointed in front of the Premier Sports cameras.
In sweltering heat after one of the hottest days of the year, the Knights were hit with an early blow as prop Masi Matongo left the field of play in the second minute before being taken to hospital.
The visitors certainly started the strongest, winning the early battle for territory, with teams exchanging forty-twenty attempts as well as errors. Unfortunately, the Knights were the ones producing the errors and Batley came up with the successful forty-twenty.
Off the back of it, full-back Luke Hooley was able to find his way to the try-line after wriggling away from Liam Harris’ tackle. Tom Gilmore, impressive throughout, began a flawless afternoon with the boot and the visitors led before the twenty-minute mark.
James Ford’s men struggled throughout the first period to get on top in the territory battle and Hooley added his second after an excellent offload led to him, running a great support line, finding his way over.
After the Bulldogs were awarded a penalty for a ball steal close to the Knights’ line, Gilmore made it three two-pointers with the book after thirty minutes to extend the Batley lead to fourteen.
In the dying moments of the half, a controversial try was awarded to the Bulldogs. Gilmore’s pass to Dane Manning looked forward but further passes found the experienced Johnny Campbell who scored in the corner. Gilmore again converting to give the Bulldogs an eighteen-point lead at the break with the Knights barely having a sniff.
A strong start to the second period was needed but it was Batley who added to their score when Dane Manning crashed over from a short pass just before the clock hit fifty.
It wasn’t quite last-chance saloon territory but it was plain that the Knights needed to try different things to hit back and – after forcing two drop-outs – they did through half-back Harris.
Receiving the ball thirty out, his early kick over the top saw Batley defenders retreat at pace. Campbell tried to swipe the ball dead but didn’t get enough on it, inviting Harris to acrobatically dive to touch down. He converted his own try and narrowed the deficit to 26-6.
That try could have sparked something of a comeback but the Knights lacked the necessary punch to add to it and it was Batley who scored next with Lucas Walshaw hitting a great line from Hooley’s pass with thirteen minutes remaining.
The next try was arguably the pick of the bunch throughout the evening and it came in the form of Knights teenager AJ Towse. The eighteen-year old was the standout player in amber and black all night and his finish was right out of the top drawer.
With Thompson and O’Hagan bringing play to the left, the Australian’s floated pass found Towse on the flank. With his angle narrowing quickly, the teenager produced a sublime acrobatic finish to get his name on the scoresheet. Harris nailed the touchline conversion to leave the score at 32-12 with ten minutes remaining.
A late Danny Kirmond score came in the dying embers after a Pauli Pauli sin-binning for a high tackle on Hooley but, in truth, the Knights were second best for the vast majority and slipped to fifth place in the Championship table with eight matches remaining.
KNIGHTS LINE-UP: Myles Harrison, Joe Brown, James Glover, Levi Edwards, AJ Towse, Brendan O’Hagan, Liam Harris, Masi Matongo, Will Jubb, Jack Teanby, Danny Kirmond, Chris Clarkson, Pauli Pauli.
INTERCHANGES: Tom Inman, Bailey Antrobus, Jordan Thompson, Marcus Stock
TRIES: Harris (58’), Towse (70’), Kirmond (75’)
GOALS: Harris (2/3)
SIN-BIN: Pauli (74’)
BATLEY BULLDOGS LINE-UP: Luke Hooley, Dale Morton, Josh Hodson, Kieran Buchanan, Johnny Campbell, Ben White, Tom Gilmore, James Brown, Ben Kaye, Martyn Reilly, Dane Manning, Lucas Walshaw, Nyle Flynn.
INTERCHANGES: James Meadows, Alistair Leak, Michael Ward, Luke Blake
TRIES: Hooley (17, 26), Campbell (37), Manning (48), Walshaw (67’)
GOALS: Gilmore (6/6)
GEOFF PRYCE MAN OF THE MATCH: AJ Towse – Burflex Scaffolding