Match report: York City Knights 34, Gateshead Thunder 30

York City Knights 34, Gateshead Thunder 30

Josh Tonks scores York City Knights’ third try in their 34-30 victory over Gateshead

Jack Aldous blasts through the defence to cross for York City Knights’ fourth try in their 34-30 victory against Gateshead at Huntington Stadium

Man of the match James Saltonstall touches down York City Knights’ sixth try against Gateshead, to the delight of team-mate Brad Day, right

York City Knights’ Ben Reynolds places a kick over the Gateshead defence

Ben Dent flies in for York City Knights’ opening score in their 34-30 victory over Gateshead Thunder

Ryan Backhouse runs in a try against Gateshead

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YORK City Knights overcame a fright - and the biggest test of this record-equalling run to date - as they held on to beat visitors Gateshead 34-30.

This eight-match winning sequence that has propelled the Knights clear at the Championship One summit began against Gateshead, also at Huntington Stadium, on June 15 - on that occasion with a more comprehensive 42-16 victory.

It was said then that the Tynesiders, with their new link-up with rugby union club Newcastle, would be on the rise off and on the field, and so it has proven with the notable recruitment of exciting Kiwi Jordan Meads giving them impetus which has helped them go up to fourth in the table.

Their links with partner Super League outfit Hull KR were even more to the fore today - not least with top-tier props Jordan Cox and Rhys Lovegrove upping the number of dual-reg players in their team to five and giving York's in-form pack a run for their money.

It remains to be seen how many such dual-reg players will be eligible come the play-offs but the good thing for the Knights is that, notwithstanding the late wobble, they showed they are more than a match, even without sidelined troops like James Ford, Ryan Mallinder and Joe Pickets, along with the longer-term absentees.

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For balance, York likewise had five borrowed players in their 17. However, all but Batley loanee Jay Leary will probably be free to turn out in the knockouts having played more than the requisite six matches of the regular season - and becoming virtual York players in the process.

Gateshead, with more rugby league experience and ability than newer expansion clubs in this tier, played with more intensity in defence than York's recent opponents, and posed a more consistent threat in attack.

Yet Gary Thornton's men, despite an indifferent kicking game and a sometimes stifled flow, grittily built a 34-14 lead which ultimately saw them home - despite the Thunder's three tries in the last 14 minutes, led by Meads, that proved they may yet be dark horses should they make the play-offs.

It was the third Super League player in their ranks that had opened the scoring. Kris Welham made an underwhelming Thunder debut here on June 15 but he made his mark after only five minutes this time.

Lee Paterson and Ed Smith had held him up over the whitewash but, after a similar move, the centre this time got the ball down with more bodies around him.

Within 12 minutes, though, York were ahead.

Firstly, hooker Jack Lee fired out a pass for Ben Dent to dive over in the left corner. It took Dent clear at the top of the Knights' try charts with 19, one ahead of Lee - whose record-breaking scoring sequence lasting ten games was to end.

Then Ben Reynolds sent a kick to the right corner for York’s other winger, James Saltonstall, to score. He could have been flummoxed by the bobbling ball but planted a hand on it like a cat swatting a butterfly.

After Lovegrove and Cox entered the fray, Thunder were soon ahead.

Full-back Jacob Blades, another ex-Hull KR man, did superbly to send Joe Brown flying down the right and, although James Haynes effected a brilliant, brave tackle, a quick play-the-ball gave the Tynesiders men over and prolific skipper Jason Payne crossed.

Haynes, concussed, also needed to be helped from the field.

Gateshead, like so many visitors before them, came with a ploy to slow down play-the-balls and, while it hampered the Knights' free-flowing rugby, it backfired either side of half-time as referee Gareth Hewer interjected.

One penalty set the position for Reynolds to slip back-row sub Josh Tonks weaving home to mark a decent debut with a try.

Another penalty, the eighth of the half, on the hooter, was booted by Reynolds, to add to his four conversions - goals that ultimately proved the difference.

It also brought a warning from Hewer - the next Gateshead foul would bring a yellow card - and Lovegrove was duly sin-binned on the restart.

York benefited from the extra man as Jack Aldous reached the line when he appeared held back, before Pat Smith broke through and sent Ryan Backhouse home.

In between times, Tyler Craig - out of position on the wing after Haynes' injury saw Dent move to full-back - did brilliantly to deny Joe Brown and then diffuse a bomb to his corner.

Brown did soon score, before an awful gaffe by Lee Mapals - being caught in goal and throwing the ball loose - gave Saltonstall an easy second try.

That should have been game over but Meads regathered his own smart grubber to score, before sending in Matt Barron. Mapals then atoned for his howler by winning the race to a perfectly-judged kick straight from a scrum on half-way, beating Dent and Welham to the touchdown.

Beharell added his third conversion - but his earlier misses proved the difference.


Match facts

Knights: Haynes 6, Saltonstall 8, Craig 7, Day 6, B Dent 7, P Smith 7, Reynolds 7, Roche 7, Lee 6, Aldous 8, Backhouse 7, E Smith 8, Paterson 6. Subs (all used): Brining 6, Brennan 8, Leary 6, Tonks 7.

Tries: Dent 12; Saltonstall 17, 66; Tonks 39; Aldous 43; Backhouse 51.

Conversions: Reynolds 39, 43, 51, 66.

Penalties: Reynolds 40.

Gateshead: Blades, Mapals, Brown, Welham, Capper, Beharell, Meads, Barron, Stamp, Fewlass, Payne, Clarke, Esslemont. Subs (all used): Hough, Lovegrove, Cox, Bowering.

Tries: Welham 5; Payne 22; Brown 58; Meads 69; Barron 75; Mapals 78.

Conversions: Beharell 22, 75, 78.

Sin-binned: Lovegrove 42.

Man of the match: James Saltonstall – worked very hard as always in off his wing, and bagged two tries as due reward.

Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven) – good, despite the high tackle count.

Penalties: 12-10.

Half-time: 16-10.

Attendance: 571.

Weather: rain stopped, breezy and parky.

Moment of the match: Tyler Craig’s two wonderful moments in quick succession in defence. Firstly he somehow turned Joe Brown on his back when a try looked certain. When the high kick then came back to his flank, Craig - in an unfamiliar wing position after James Haynes’ injury - rose like a high jumper to pluck the ball out of the air and nullify the danger. Pat Smith set up Ryan Backhouse to score at the other end moments later – reward for Craig’s try-saving efforts.

Gaffe of the match: ex-Knight Lee Mapals gathered a kick on his own goal-line and not only got caught running laterally and shoved in goal, but he then, in a foolhardy attempt to prevent Thunder having to drop out, threw the ball into no-man’s land – where opposite winger James Saltonstall scored.

Gamebreaker: that Mapals gaffe and Saltonstall try proved crucial. It put York 34-14 up with 14 minutes to go, 14 minutes in which Jordan Meads, Matty Barron and Mapals scored at the other end.

Match rating: exciting encounter which deserved a bigger attendance – with Gateshead proving they will be a threat in the play-offs, assuming they make it.

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