York Knights U20s' season at an end after high-quality semi-final defeat at Featherstone (From York Press)
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York Knights U20s' season at an end after high-quality semi-final defeat at Featherstone
YORK City Knights under-20s’ excellent season finally ended tonight with a 34-26 defeat at Featherstone in a high-quality U20s Championship play-off semi-final.
A grand final away to league leaders Salford awaited the winners, and York’s starlets looked on course for a surprise victory over the reigning champions as they carved out a deserved 16-10 half-time lead.
However, the hosts had the infamous Post Office Road slope in their favour in the second half – as well as some controversial refereeing calls - and they bagged four tries to two in reply to progress.
Knights U20s coach James Ford remained proud of his troops, who went into the game depleted by injury but bolstered by first-teamer Ed Smith in his seasonal U20s bow, as well as Greg Minikin and Kriss Brining, who had both played for the first team 24 hours earlier. Brining did not last long, though, while hooker Harry Carter and forward Ryan Parker also suffered injury, leaving them with only one fit interchange.
Ford said: “They were two very good teams. Defensively we were good technically and controlled the ruck for much of the game. We were missing five or six players but we attacked well considering we had a few in different positions.
“Toward the end of the game we lost control of the ruck, probably as we were down to one interchange. But the lads showed so much character against a champion team.
“There was some debatable officiating and some key decisions went against us, but the referees at this level are developing as well.”
Home winger James Metcalfe made use of space down the Knights’ right flank before cutting inside full-back Luke Tomlinson to give Rovers an early lead, James Glover adding the first of his five conversions.
York were on top in the first quarter, though, and deservedly levelled. Ryan Parker went close before one of James Morland’s cross-field kicks caused consternation, Tyler Craig pouncing. Lennox Green goaled.
Fev then got lucky to retake the lead, Billy Lloyd scoring a farcical try.
The referee awarded a penalty for offside on York’s try-line and allowed Lloyd to take it quickly and flop over the whitewash with the defence off guard.
It had come from a counter-attack after an apparent Fev knock-on under a kick on their own line.
Rovers did have a try harshly ruled out soon after – an offload that went to ground being deemed forward – but York deservedly struck back to take a 16-10 half-time lead.
Brilliance by Smith – superb in the pack all night - and then Craig gave Ryan Gallacher a simple touchdown.
Then scrum-half Green scored a superb solo effort, skipping through then dancing around the full-back, tagging on the extras himself.
Fortune favoured Fev for their equaliser three minutes after the resumption as Morland took too long to get his clearing kick away and had it charged down by Luke Teasdale, who won the race to the loose ball and the try-line.
Rovers were aided by a penalty soon after, which saw Dwaine McRae and the excellent Jack Pickerill held up only for a cute kick to catch the defence out, Luke Cooper scoring.
Another penalty gave Rovers more hope but Gallacher scooped up a home fumble and sprinted 60 metres up the slope. He was collared but got a superb ball out for Craig to score again. Green goaled and it was 22-22.
Tomlinson marred his fine display when spilling a Fev kick but was spared as Pickerill’s touchdown was ruled out – either for offside or reefing.
The hosts were getting a roll-on down the hill, though, and prop Nathan Harper crashed over.
This young Knights side do not give in, however. Jack Iley smashed through in centre-field, Smith made more good ground, and impudence from Green, with a little kick to himself at the try-line, brought a try.
The scrum-half could not add the extras, though, and the referee gave the hosts a huge leg-up soon after, awarding them a scrum after they had seemingly knocked on. They duly benefited as Lewis Young got over.
Parker, going back on the field despite injury, and Iley got within inches of a riposte as the Knights hammered away for a late turnaround, but it was not to be.
Ford added: “To think where we started this year, or two years ago for a fair few of these lads, to where we finished this season – it’s remarkable. I’m proud of how they’ve developed and progressed.
“They’re not all going to play first team but I’d like to think that with the right development a fair few will do – and be very good at that level too.”
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