York City Knights’ winning run in the Betfred Championship came to an end as they fell to a 24-40 defeat at the hands of Halifax Panthers at the LNER Community Stadium.
The Knights headed into Sunday’s fixture having won six of their last seven Betfred Championship matches and came up against a Panthers side sitting fourth in the league standings.
James Ford’s side drew first blood after sustained pressure on the Halifax line with new recruit Bailey Antrobus playing a key role in gaining possession on the field after making a quick break.
Half-back Liam Harris continued his try-scoring form after his partner in crime Jamie Ellis slotted a pinpoint kick past the Halifax defence with Harris diving on the ball to score his eighth of the season at the four-minute mark. Ellis converted to make it 6-0.
The visiting Panthers supporters had something of their own to cheer about at the 12-minute mark when in-form James Woodburn-Hall made a line break through the middle, setting up winger Lachlan Walmsley who made a supporting run on the inside touching down with ease. Joe Keyes converted to make it 6-6.
James Ford’s side made use of an extra man after Panthers halfback Louis Jouffret was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul in the 23rd minute.
Just seconds later, sustained pressure after the infringement helped Jack Teanby latch on to a well-timed pass, charging his way over the try line despite the best efforts of the Halifax defence to stop him. Ellis converted to make it 12-6.
Halifax saw another man sent to the bin with James Saltonstall being dismissed for ten minutes by referee Ben Thaler for not letting Bailey Antrobus play the ball.
Once again Ford’s side took advantage of a mistake by the Panthers and had two extra men on the field with fullback Matty Marsh darting over after drawing in the Halifax backline. Ellis converted to make it 18-6 after 27 minutes.
In perhaps the game-swinging moment, and with the Knights having a two-man advantage, Walmsley grabbed his second try of the game for Halifax in the 34th minute when he intercepted a wide Harris pass, running the full length of the field despite the best efforts of Joe Brown to chase him down. Keyes converted and the visitors trailed by six.
The Panthers grabbed another try just two minutes later in the 36th minute after a line break through the middle saw Joe Keyes draw the Knights defence in, passing inside to Brandon Moore who touched down under the sticks to make it 18-16. Keyes levelled the scores, adding the two points.
Momentum remained with Simon Grix’s side as they spread the ball out wide to James Woodburn-Hall who crossed over for the visitor’s third try in a devastating ten-minute spell with seconds to go in the first half.
The hooter sounded as an entertaining clash was developing with the Panthers leading 18-22 at halftime.
The Knights came out for the second half needing to overturn a four-point deficit and they came out in fifth gear keeping pressure on the Panthers’ line.
Harris scored his second try of the game after a quick and direct attack down the flank with the halfback managing to shrug off the Panthers’ backline and ground the ball down in the 52nd minute. Ellis converted to make it 24-22.
The entertainment continued to flow at the LNER Community Stadium but it was the Halifax fans celebrating when prop forward Dan Murray forced his way over the try line from short range with Keyes converting to make it 24-28.
Keyes continued to cause problems for York’s defence with a long, looping pass finding Lachlan Walmsley who went over for his hat-trick try and, in turn, gave the visitors a 24-32 lead with just under twenty minutes remaining. Keyes converted once again to give the Panthers a ten point lead.
Halifax sealed the points in the 72nd minute thanks once again to Murray who crashed over to make it 24-38 with Keyes’ successful kick making it 24-40, a score that would remain until the final hooter.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS LINE UP: Matty Marsh, Joe Brown, James Glover, Bailey Antrobus, Will Oakes, Liam Harris, Jamie Ellis, Masi Matongo, Will Jubb, Ronan Dixon, Danny Kirmond, Chris Clarkson, Jordan Thompson.
INTERCHANGES: Sam Davis, Jack Teanby, Marcus Stock, Joe Porter
TRIES: Liam Harris (4,52) Jack Teanby (23) Matty Marsh (27)
GOALS: Jamie Ellis 4/4
HALIFAX PANTHERS LINE UP: James Woodburn-Hall, Lachlan Walmsley, Ben Tibbs, Joe Arundel, James Saltonstall, Louis Jouffret, Joe Keyes, Will Calcott, Brandon Moore, Dan Murray, Oliver Roberts, Matt Garside, Adam Tangata.
INTERCHANGES: Kyle Wood, Titus Gwaze, Kevin Larroyer, Ed Barber
TRIES: Lachlan Walmsley (12, 34, 63) Brandon Moore (36) James Woodburn Hall (39) Dan Murray (58, 72)
GOALS: Joe Keyes 6/7
SIN BIN: Louis Jouffret (23), James Saltonstall (26)
GEOFF PRYCE MAN OF THE MATCH: Joe Porter – sponsored by The Ellis Family, in memory of David Ellis