The Knights got back to winning ways tonight at the LNER Community Stadium with a 20-12 victory over Sheffield Eagles with a Liam Harris-inspired performance a vastly improved one from last weekend’s defeat at Leigh Centurions.
With Brendan O’Hagan, Jordan Thompson, Danny Kirmond and Ata Hingano all returning to the starting thirteen alongside winger Brad Ward, Head Coach James Ford was able to welcome back a plethora of both experience and talent to his line-up to face Sheffield Eagles but, after starting better, it was the Eagles who hit the front.
Breaking through the middle of the pitch, Jamaican international Joel Farrell got into the Knights’ ten before full-back Matty Marsh stopped his progress. The forward, though, got back to his feet to give Ross Oakes the finish. The provider was on kicking duties and couldn’t add the two.
On the twenty-minute mark, a Knights side who Ford admitted looked a touch nervous, hit back after growing further into the game. Working the ball right, full-back Matty Marsh was found and, after skipping inside tackles, his brave dive for the line came up trumps, levelling the scores. Harris couldn’t kick the two but the Knights would hit the front minutes later.
Bailey Antrobus, in the midst of a showing full of effort and grit, was the recipient of a lovely delayed pass from Hingano – lining up at loose-forward – to go through a gap. James Glover, against his former team, assumed kicking duties to give the Knights a six point advantage.
Just before the half-hour mark, an outstanding tackle from the centre preserved the York lead with winger Matty Chrimes looking almost certain to score and it gave the platform for the Knights to extend the lead.
On the last, half-backs Liam Harris and Brendan O’Hagan linked up excellently with the Australian producing a superb grubber towards the sticks for Harris to touch down. Glover again knocked over the two and the scoreline would remain the same until the interval – but the numbers on the Eagles side wouldn’t.
In the dying moments of the first period, Harris excellently fielded a grubber to the in-goal to not only avoid conceding the drop-out but race upfield. Caught by Tom Holmes around halfway, a combination of holding down in the tackle and facial attention on the turf saw the former Super League half sent to the sin-bin. Glover went for goal from just inside the Knights’ half but his kick fell just short.
Despite the man advantage, Ford’s men – without captain Chris Clarkson with a knock – couldn’t capitalise and it was instead Sheffield who opened the second half scoring. Off the back of a penalty that helped the Eagles into our ten, hooker Vila Halahifi barged over to narrow the deficit.
Just before the hour mark, Sheffield were handed their second sin-bin of the evening when talismanic half-back Anthony Thackeray appeared to swing an arm towards the face of O’Hagan despite neither of them being in possession. Perhaps lucky to only receive a yellow, he was promptly followed by a teammate as well as a Knight.
Bayley Liu became the third Eagles sent for ten after forcing Matty Marsh’s head into the turf in the tackle. For his reaction, our full-back was also sent for ten and the numbers were down to twelve versus eleven.
Again, though, the Knights couldn’t capitalise on the man advantage and Sheffield narrowed it down to a four-point deficit when winger Ryan Johnson found his way to the line, finishing well in the corner.
After last weekend’s drubbing, many may have thought that the Knights would wilt in the dying stages but, after our right edge forced Sheffield into a goal-line drop-out with three minutes remaining, York were given the platform to seal the game.
When, in the 79th minute, Harris dropped an outstanding grubber to the in-goal, Glover – against his former team – grounded to cue celebrations on the pitch and in the stands. The conversion attempt was missed but it was academic – the Knights had bounced back from two defeats to get back into the winners’ circle.
York City Knights Line-Up: Matty Marsh, Brad Ward, James Glover, Joe Brown, AJ Towse, Brendan O’Hagan, Liam Harris, Jack Teanby, Will Jubb, Jordan Thompson, Danny Kirmond, Bailey Antrobus, Ata Hingano.
Interchanges: Tom Inman, Ronan Dixon, Marcus Stock, Ronan Michael
Tries: Matty Marsh (20’), Bailey Antrobus (23’), Liam Harris (33’), James Glover (79’)
Conversions: Liam Harris (0/1), James Glover (2/3)
Sheffield Eagles Line-Up: Ben Jones-Bishop, Ryan Johnson, Kris Welham, Ross Oakes, Matty Chrimes, Tom Holmes, Anthony Thackeray, Brandon Douglas, Vila Halahifi, Tyler Dickenson, Mikey Wood, Joel Farrell, Evan Hodgson.
Interchanges: Connor Bower, Blake Broadbent, Bailey Liu, Liam Kirk
Tries: Farrell (7’), Halafihi (44’), Johnson (64’)
Conversions: Farrell (0/3)