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Match report: Whitehaven 32, York City Knights 22
THIS dual-registration system is not universally liked in rugby league but at least York City Knights fans can argue that Tom Lineham, one such player on their books, is actually one of their own, having been propelled into the Super League picture by their club.
Lineham, back in a Knights shirt as one of five Hull FC lads in the team that lost 32-22 in yesterday’s Championship opener at Whitehaven, was their hero, too, as his two tries in the last two minutes at least meant Gary Thornton’s new-look outfit began the season with a bonus point in the bag.
York had looked the more likely next scorers as they trailed 14-12 midway through the second half, but they missed two opportunities, and were hit by a 68th-minute sucker punch as Chris Fleming scored from a Carl Sice kick which should have been dealt with by Jamie Shaul.
Two more tries quickly followed as the Knights had the stuffing knocked out of them, but the good thing is they fought back to nick an improbable point.
Some Knights fans may bemoan yet another defeat, having seen only one league victory in 18 months, but, unlike many of those other losses, their side probably should have won this one.
It also remains to be seen how many teams go to Haven this year and win.
Lineham deserved his reward, too, for an eye-catching all-round performance – the downside of which is that many more will surely play him back into Hull’s team and out of York’s.
The entire right side for the Knights yesterday had been made up of Hull players – second-row Dean Hadley, scrum-half Danny Nicklas and Lineham, along with centre Jack Latus, who is now on trial at Huntington Stadium having been released from his trial at the KC.
Another Airlie Bird, Shaul, man of the match at full-back in Hull’s pre-season win at York, started on the left wing but interchanged with full-back Tom Carr.
Boss Thornton, who could only finalise his line-up over the weekend as it depended on which Hull players would be available, had to make an even later change, when prop Matty Nicholson strained a groin in the warm-up.
It meant Jack Aldous started up front alongside the one other Airlie Bird, Josh Bowden, with utility back James Haynes, the 18th man, going onto the bench.
The Knights therefore had two substitutes with only 25 minutes of action between them in pre-season, Haynes having had a second-half run against Hull – his first hit-out for a year – while prop Adam Sullivan, a surprise inclusion, is only just coming back from a knee problem.
This in turn meant their other packmen had to put in bigger shifts – and the likes of Aldous, Sam Scott and Jason Golden stood up to the mark, as did Jack Lee at hooker. One hit-up by Aldous had York-born Lee Paterson, the former Knights captain on his debut for Haven, needing to catch his breath.
Haven had their own bother, as they lost captain Lee Doran seven minutes in after damaging a shoulder, but they were aided early on by a 5-0 penalty count, and they made it tell as Paul Jackson went in from a pass by Jamie Rooney, who duly began his 100 per cent record with the boot.
York finally got a penalty of their own on 24 minutes and there followed their first real attack of a nip-and-tuck arm wrestle of a match, Nicklas’ smart work and Lineham’s follow-up tackle forcing a dropout.
Two fumbles meant great position was twice lost but the Knights were level on 31 minutes. Lee somehow broke through two tackles in midfield and sprinted forward before giving James Ford the scoring pass. Simon Brown converted.
Haven should have retaken the lead when Sice knocked on instead of touching down a Cain Southernwood kick.
But they were ahead at half-time, thanks to a Rooney penalty awarded for a late push by Scott on Rooney after he had kicked the ball. It was the one blot on hard-working Scott’s copybook.
York started the second half well and took the lead as Lee roly-polyed and twisted over from dummy-half between the sticks, Brown goaling.
But a Dave Houghton charge down centre-field set the platform for Haven’s second try, Craig Calvert finishing it, with Rooney’s touchline conversion edging his side ahead again.
York thereafter got on top but missed chances on either side due to poor passes from Carr and Hadley.
And they paid the price as penalties got Haven on the front foot for Fleming’s try.
Soon enough, ex-Knight Neil Thorman made good ground in a kick return and the excellent Jessie Joe Parker finished the attack to confirm victory.
It got worse as Nicklas’ kick over the top from a scrum on half-way backfired as Lineham could not make up the defenders’ ten-metre start and Haven went up the other end where Paul Cullnean blasted over.
York were now out of bonus point range but Lineham’s power and acrobatics saw him score from dummy-half and he then won the race to another Nicklas kick early in the tackle count.
Whitehaven: Thorman, Calvert, Parker, McAvoy, Fleming, Rooney, Southernwood, Jackson, Newton, Cullnean, Doran, Clarke, Paterson. Subs (all used): Sice, Houghton, Martins, Cameron.
Tries: Jackson 19; Calvert 48; Fleming 68; Parker 73; Cullnean 77.
Conversions: Rooney 19, 48, 68, 73, 77.
Penalty: Rooney 40.
Knights: Carr 6, Lineham 9, Ford 7, Latus 6, Shaul 6, Brown 7, Nicklas 7, Bowden 7, Lee 8, Aldous 8, Scott 8, Hadley 7, Golden 7. Subs (all used): Brining 7, Haynes 5, Bell 7, Sullivan 6.
Tries: Ford 31; Lee 42; Lineham 79, 80.
Conversions: Brown 31, 42, 79.
Man of the match: Sam Scott, Jack Aldous and Jack Lee put in massive shifts in the pack, but the effort, threat and tries provided by Tom Lineham were not overshadowed.
Referee: Warren Turley (Leigh) – couple of iffy decisions for both sides.
Penalty count: 13-10.
Weather: damp, with a heavy pitch.
Moment of the match: Jack Lee’s break, shaking off one defender and swatting off another, which led to York’s opening try by James Ford.
Gaffe of the match: Jamie Shaul should have dealt with Carl Sice’s kick to the corner, but he didn’t and Chris Fleming got the match-turning try for Haven.
Gamebreaker: Haven began a killer three-try nine-minute spell as Fleming touched down that loose ball to make it 20-12 and knock the stuffing out of the Knights.
Match rating: a good, even game which York may feel they should have won.
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