The Knights secured their third consecutive Betfred Championship victory with a 14-16 win at Widnes Vikings but, after an under-par performance, were made to work for it by the hosts.
Heading to Cheshire on the back of two Jubilee Weekend wins over Sheffield Eagles and London Broncos, the Knights had already bounced back from their first league defeat since February against Halifax Panthers. Those two victories saw the Knights tested but, if the mark of a good team is being able to win when not at their best, this Knights team is certainly a good one.
With a number of players coming back into contention after missing Sunday’s win against London Broncos, the Knights were closer to full strength but started on the back foot with Widnes opening the scoring after just two minutes.
Just into our half after a strong forward carry, the experienced Matty Smith found his way through a sizeable gap in the Knights’ defence and, after drawing in full-back Matty Marsh, passed left to Danny Craven who crossed under the sticks. Jack Owens converted and the hosts led by six.
Far from their best, the Knights capitalised on what was the first chance the team earned. Off the back of a scrum that was changed to a penalty after dissent from Widnes, the ball was worked to the right. Marsh fired wide to winger Joe Brown and, after cutting inside his opposite number, found his way to the line. Jamie Ellis’ conversion attempt just in from the touchline drifted wide in front of the sticks and, approaching the quarter-hour mark, the Knights trailed by two.
The Vikings then found themselves in a purple patch and threatened regularly, almost on each play after camping deep in Knights territory.
On the half-hour mark, after bringing play from side to side, the Vikings manufactured an overlap on their right and, after drawing winger AJ Towse up, a wide pass found Ryan Ince in space to score the hosts’ second. The former Leigh man would score his second and the Vikings’ third six minutes later after quick hands found him in space.
Owens converted the first of the two and, at the break, the hosts led 14-4 with the Knights far from their best and rarely threatening.
In the dying embers of the first period, half-back Danny Craven was sent to the sin-bin after referee Ben Thaler deemed him guilty of holding down at the play the ball.
The Knights, however, weren’t able to capitalise on the man advantage. Early errors from both sides unable to build pressure or momentum.
With the hosts’ fans creating something of a partisan atmosphere at the DCBL Stadium, a decision from Thaler that they deemed unjust sparked an incredible defensive effort in the following set. With the Knights attack not clicking, fierce kick pressure forced Ellis into a rushed last-tackle play. Despite a below-par kick, winger Brown was able to win it in the air and then find space to reach the line for his second. Ellis’ conversion attempt was unsuccessful but, with four points in it and twenty-five minutes remaining, it was game on.
Despite narrowing the gap and the momentum in the Knights’ favour, the play continued to be patchy from James Ford’s men but, with Widnes unable to capitalise on the errors, the game was still in the balance going into the last ten minutes.
And then James Glover stepped up to break the game and, ultimately, Widnes’ resolve.
Liam Harris, in possession just inside our half, found his way through a gap before offloading to Glover forty metres out
The centre promptly darted infield through a gap presented by the retreating Widnes defence. Winger Brad Holroyd cut down the angle alongside a number of forwards but the former Sheffield man mesmerised the defence with his footwork to get within ten.
Hauled down by Olly Davies five out, Glover was able to offload to the supporting Marsh who had the easiest finish he could wish for.
Ellis’ conversion put the Knights in the lead for the first time and, despite Jack Teanby dropping the kick-off dead in goal, Widnes weren’t able to capitalise on the field position nor opportunity and it was ultimately the Knights who secured the win.
Widnes Vikings Line-Up: Jack Owens, Brad Holroyd, Joe Edge, Matt Fleming, Ryan Ince, Danny Craven, Matty Smith, Callum Field, Matty Fozard, Owen Farnworth, Sam Wilde, Olly Davies, Aaron Brown
Interchanges: Joe Lyons, Adam Lawton, Eribe Doro, Kenny Baker
Tries: Danny Craven (2’), Ryan Ince (30’, 36’)
Goals: Matty Smith (1/3)
Sin-bin: Danny Craven (40’)
York City Knights Line-Up: Matty Marsh, Joe Brown, James Glover, Bailey Antrobus, AJ Towse, Liam Harris, Jamie Ellis, Jack Teanby, Will Jubb, Pauli Pauli, Danny Kirmond, Chris Clarkson, Jordan Thompson
Interchanges: Masi Matongo, Ronan Dixon, Marcus Stock, Joe Porter
Tries: Joe Brown (13’, 56’), Matty Marsh (77’)
Goals: Jamie Ellis (2/3)
Geoff Pryce Man of the Match, in partnership with Isaac Poad: James Glover – City Cruises York