Whitehaven ended the Knights Mens’ run in 2022’s Betfred Challenge Cup in emphatic fashion this afternoon, defeating James Ford’s team 38-12 at the LEL Arena with a strong first-half showing setting the platform.
A much-changed Knights team saw Myles Harrison and Brad Ward included, the former at full-back with the latter returning on the wing. Matty Marsh moved into the halves to partner Liam Harris with Sam Davis also coming back into the fold, starting at hooker with Brendan O’Hagan making his first appearance since our victory over Dewsbury Rams earlier this season.
Despite a strong start from the Knights, it was the hosts who crossed for the first try of the afternoon with Andrew Bulman the beneficiary. Half-back Alex-Bishop failed to convert from the touchline and, with the Cumbrians leading by four, the two sides went set for set before the hosts, once again, began to create some pressure with strong drives.
Ronan Michael, named at loose-forward, left the action through injury shortly before the twentieth minute and the hosts furthered their lead minutes later after a fortunate ricochet try. Nikau Williams’ grubber hit Jacob Ogden’s shins before deflecting off Connor Holliday’s and the Whitehaven man was first to the ball in the in-goal area. Bishop converted and the hosts led by ten with twenty-five minutes on the clock.
The final ten minutes of the first period would then take the game away from the Knights with three tries. First, Ryan King shrugged off the attentions of the Knights defence to score before breaking the line minutes later, drawing in full-back Harrison and passing to Geronimo Doyle. The third of a devastating ten-minute spell came with seconds remaining when Williams’ grubber held up in the mud and the half-back beat Harrison to the loose ball to score, leaving the half-time score 28-0 to the hosts.
With a big second half required, the Knights started with Ford’s words ringing in their ears. O’Hagan, who entered the field around the half-hour mark, got the Knights on the scoreboard with a try that saw him jink through the line before going over under the sticks. Liam Harris converted and made the score 28-6 after forty-eight minutes.
Ford’s men then continued to build towards a big last half hour and, despite losing the returning Porter through an elbow injury, Harris and O’Hagan tested the Whitehaven defence with the boot – but then the tables turned and Whitehaven took the game away from the Knights.
As repeat sets and set restarts went the way of the hosts, Marsh and Davis were penalised for infractions in the tackle, the Knights had several sets on our own line to deal with and the Cumbrians broke our defensive line with King. The ball from the Australian went towards our line and, with the officials deeming a Knights hand knocked it backwards, the ball was grounded and Bishop converted to extend the hosts’ lead to 34-6.
On the 76th minute, Holliday scored his second of the afternoon to put the final nail in the Knights coffin.
In the last minute, however, it was the Knights who scored the last points of the match with Joe Brown scoring his first try in the amber and black. With Jordan Thompson making an excellent line break, he found winger Brown supporting through the middle and the former Bradford man went over under the sticks.
Harris converted to make it 38-12 but the Knights’ 2022 Challenge Cup journey ended in Cumbria.