York City Knights won their fifth consecutive Betfred Championship match this afternoon, inflicting a 30-12 defeat on Whitehaven at the LNER Community Stadium.
With just one change from last weekend’s emphatic victory over Newcastle Thunder, Head Coach James Ford brought Jacob Ogden onto the wing in place of teenager AJ Towse who had been ruled out with food poisoning.
Coming into the game on great form, the Knights were hit by a strong start from Whitehaven. After an error from Ogden saw the Cumbrians earn a repeat set, Italian World Cup hopeful Ryan King shrugged off the attentions of Liam Harris in the left channel to open the scoring in the sixth minute. Nikau Williams converted his first of two conversions to give the visitors a 0-6 lead.
That is how the score remained until shortly after the twentieth minute. After a penalty saw the Knights march up the field, hooker Will Jubb’s dart from dummy-half saw the team into Whitehaven’s ten metres and, on the next play, Brendan O’Hagan jinked inside would-be tacklers and then forced his way under the sticks to give Harris the easiest of conversions to level the scores.
The Knights went back-to-back and after good work from captain Chris Clarkson, Levi Edwards went over in the corner. Harris again converted on what would prove to be an excellent afternoon for the half-back.
After shrugging off Whitehaven’s strong start to then take the ascendency, it was against the run of play when the Cumbrians levelled matters in the North Yorkshire sunshine.
Good defence from Harris and Glover quelled a Whitehaven threat on the edge but, after a King grubber from dummy-half was allowed to bobble in goal, referee Scott Mikalauskas awarded the try to Davy Litten after the Hull FC loanee was deemed to have grounded. Williams’ conversion in the 33rd minute but, two minutes later, the Knights were back in front.
Brilliant work from Harris saw him run clear after picking up from dummy-half, prop forward Jack Teanby leaving the markers scattered. Harris then drew in Litten to pass to Marsh but, after Williams’ ankle tap, the Knights full-back had the composure to offload in turn to Harris, the half-back going over to put his team back in the lead.
His conversion made it 18-12 and that is the score the teams went into the break with.
With the Knights dominating but not clear on the scoreboard, the next points were always going to be vital and it was the Knights who got them through Harris.
After Edwards and Ogden went close from a scrum, another was called in the Knights favour and, after spinning the ball right, Harris dummied through a gap and was able to find his way to the try line despite the efforts of Whitehaven’s defence. He continued his 100% record with the boot to give the Knights a twelve point lead.
Just after the hour mark, the game was sealed for the Knights by a man in a rich vein of try-scoring form. With Jordan Thompson going close in the middle, Jubb then spun the ball right and, after Marsh drew in the attention of Whitehaven’s line, his pass to James Glover put the centre over the top of Hull FC loanee Marcus Walker. His try was his fourth in his last three Knights appearances and Harris’ sixth conversion gave the Knights an eighteen point lead that never looked like being lost.
Thereafter, Whitehaven endeavoured to punch holes but were each time met with stern Knights defence.
A seventh win from the opening nine rounds of the Betfred Championship leaves the Knights in a commanding position, sitting third in the league, but next week’s Monday night trip to Barrow will be yet another test that the Knights will have to overcome.
KNIGHTS LINE-UP: Matty Marsh, Joe Brown, James Glover, Levi Edwards, Jacob Ogden, Brendan O’Hagan, Liam Harris, Masi Matongo, Will Jubb, Pauli Pauli, Danny Kirmond, Chris Clarkson, Jordan Thompson.
INTERCHANGES: Sam Davis, Ronan Dixon, Marcus Stock, Jack Teanby
TRIES: Brendan O’Hagan (21’), Levi Edwards (23’), Liam Harris (35’, 47’), James Glover (61’)
GOALS: Liam Harris (5/5)
WHITEHAVEN: Davy Litten, Andrew Bulman, Marcus Walker, Will Evans, Josh Martin, Dion Aiye, Nikau Williams, Guy Graham, Jacob Hookem, Tom Walker, Ryan King, Jake Moore, Tom Wilkinson.
INTERCHANGES: Jake Bradley, Kieran Hudson, Liam Cooper, Andrew Dawson
TRIES: Ryan King (6’), Davy Litten (32’)
GOALS: Nikau Williams (2/2)
GEOFF PRYCE MAN OF THE MATCH – Liam Harris, sponsored by DNS Hull