The Knights sealed their first victory in five Betfred Championship matches with a 18-27 win over Newcastle Thunder at Headingley Stadium in the closing match of this year’s Summer Bash.
After a promising showing last weekend in defeat against Featherstone Rovers, Sunday’s win strengthened the Knights’ hold on a Play-Off spot with six matches remaining this year.
A cagey opening few minutes saw each team exchange sets but, after an Alex Donaghy knock on ten metres from Newcastle’s line, a tidy scrum play from the Knights gave us the lead. Half-back Liam Harris and returning full-back Matty Marsh linked up to give winger Joe Brown his second try in as many games with an easy finish in the corner.
Harris’ touchline conversion attempt, however, was far from easy – the former Super League half-back, though, nailed it to give the Knights a six-point advantage.
The next fifteen minutes saw neither side manage to take hold of the game and, in the 23rd minute, Newcastle levelled up proceedings when Thunder forward Ukuma Ta’ai forced his way over under the sticks despite heavy Knights attention. Jake Shorrocks, a consistent threat before leaving play with a second-half injury, converted.
Moments later, Newcastle led after being awarded a penalty thirty out for a ball steal, Shorrocks adding the two, before the Knights took back the lead shortly after the half-hour mark.
Play was taken towards our right edge from the middle of the park and Marsh, once again, fired a superb cut-out pass to Brown for his second to give the Knights a 8-10 lead.
An untidy end to the half saw both sides make unforced errors but the Knights held firm, holding up a would-be try-scorer in the final play of the half as the hooter sounded.
The first scores of the second period were always likely to be key and, after an opening ten minutes that saw sides exchange sets and errors, a Newcastle sin-bin provided the catalyst for James Ford’s men to take control.
After some excellent play to shift the ball right to Brown, the winger threatened and went close to the Thunder line. A set restart was called with Ellis Robson holding the former Bradford man down in the tackle but, after failing to release, the forward was sent for ten minutes in the bin.
In the resulting set, Marsh went to add his own try to his two assists in the first period, forcing the ball down well with several Newcastle men circling to give the Knights a six-point lead.
The 53rd minute saw the try of the game as York sought to put the hammer down. Excellent play in the middle again saw Marsh and Harris exchanged passes to get round Newcastle defenders and, when the half-back drew in Thunder full-back Craig Mullen, he passed right to Glover.
The centre still had work to do but did it well, stretching an arm out of a goal-line tackle to dot down next to the sticks. Harris’ conversion gave the Knights a twelve-point lead with 25 minutes remaining.
With a man advantage, though, those in amber and black were unable to add to the lead and Newcastle hit back. Shorrocks went close with a great effort with only an excellent tackle from Jacob Ogden stopping him. The former Wigan half-back went off injured but his half-back partner Connor Bailey was able to find his way through a gap minutes later to make it an eight-point ball game.
Thunder went back-to-back after returning the kick-off well. A good shift saw play worked from left to right and centre Isaac Nokes was able to find his way between Levi Edwards and AJ Towse before evading the attentions of Marsh to score Newcastle’s third of the evening. Mullen’s conversion narrowed the gap to just two points with twenty minutes left on the clock.
The Knights did look the better team but, after a game littered with errors from both sides, there was no guarantee that they could see the game out. With nine minutes remaining, a game-clinching try was score, though, and would prove pivotal.
Hooker Tom Inman, only just off the interchange bench, produced a sublime kick from dummy-half just short of the try-line to the in-goal that veteran forward Danny Kirmond was first to, re-establishing the Knights’ six-point lead. A crucial Harris conversion added a further two with little over five minutes remaining.
Newcastle did their best to hit back in the dying stages but, as the hooter sounded, Australian half-back Brendan O’Hagan kicked a drop-goal from twenty out to seal the Knights’ first win in five and, in turn, keep on the coattails of those just above us in the Championship table.
Newcastle Thunder: Craig Mullen, Gideon Boafo, Isaac Nokes, Brad Gallagher, Alex Donaghy, Jake Shorrocks, Connor Bailey, Ted Chapelhow, Josh Eaves, Jay Chapelhow, Ollie Roberts, Brad Day, Nathan Wilde.
Interchanges: Tom Forber, Lewis Peachey, Mitch Clark, Ukuma Ta’ai
Tries: Ukuma Ta’ai (23’), Connor Bailey (58’), Alex Donaghy (60’)
Conversions: Jake Shorrocks (1/1), Craig Mullen (1/2)
Penalties: Jake Shorrocks (24’)
York City Knights: Matty Marsh, Joe Brown, James Glover, Levi Edwards, AJ Towse, Brendan O’Hagan, Liam Harris, Ronan Michael, Will Jubb, Jordan Thompson, Danny Kirmond, Jacob Ogden, Chris Clarkson.
Interchanges: Tom Inman, Marcus Stock, Ronan Michael, Joe Porter
Tries: Joe Brown (7’, 31’), Matty Marsh (50’), James Glover (53’), Danny Kirmond (73’)
Conversions: Liam Harris (3/5)
Drop-Goal: Brendan O’Hagan (80’)