Match report: York City Knights 36, London Skolars 16
BEN DENT failed to notch a try for only the second time this season but the family name still got on the scoresheet as York City Knights saw off London Skolars 36-16 to go joint-top of Championship One.
For the first time in living memory, two brothers occupied York's wing berths and it was the younger of the pair, 20-year-old Adam, who crossed the whitewash.
His score came at an important time, too, to put the Knights back in front after the visitors had taken a semblance of control. It also put a big smile on development manager Jack Stearman's face.
Stearman, who in recent years has played alongside, coached and managed Dent junior, had predicted that the winger would score on his debut. Rather humorously, he was also gutted Rugby Football League rules prevent club officials from placing wagers on such things.
Notably for the Knights, Dent the younger, the latest of the club's youth products, was playing in a threequarter line with an average age of 20.
He had a decent game, too, inside sponsors' man-of-the-match James Saltonstall. Fit-again Greg Minikin, 19, and Dent the elder were similarly impressive on the other flank, and, with second-rows Ed Smith and Ryan Mallinder in good form, they largely proved the difference between the teams - with this sextet troubling the visitors on the edges, taking the play out of the middle where the Skolars had the extra size, and scoring four of the Knights' six tries.
They were pipped to the man-of-the-match award, though, by the man behind them, James Haynes, who, barring one mistake, followed up his super show at Gateshead with another top-notch display, capped by a late try.
Haynes' mistake came when he dropped a high ball midway through the second half, but it didn't prove costly as Minikin and Ben Dent ganged up on the recipient Mufaro Mvududu, and drove him back ten yards, giving the defence time to reorganise.
Mallinder had got the first try, after quick hands created the opening. The second-row had Minikin and Ben Dent outside him but went alone and crashed over. Benn Hardcastle, having crucially maintained a 100 per cent record with the boot in the narrow win at Gateahead, did likewise here.
The Skolars, though, were probably the better team in the opening quarter, led by prop Ryan MacDonald, the much-travelled old warhorse whose ability to drag in several tacklers and still get offloads out sets him apart from most front-rowers in this division.
They duly scored twice, both on the back of penalties, through second-row Sam Wellings and winger Judd Greenhalgh.
The first came when MacDonald drew a free-kick from Lee Paterson for holding down. The former team-mates at York exchanged a wry word afterwards.
The second came after Saltonstall had been penalised for a ball steal in a two-on-one tackle, though the ball carrier may well have been similarly cunning in letting go his grip. A brilliant cut-out pass from Courtney Davies gave Greenhalgh his chance.
The Skolars, though, suffered a huge blow as Davies' influential half-back partner, Matt Bradley, who had goaled the first try, departed with a shoulder injury after the second.
They had also lost Anthony Cox to a leg injury, having already been without big-name fellow second-rows Lamont Bryan and Michael Worrincy.
Bad luck aside, they were their own worst enemies for the rest of the half, regularly turning over possession.
Stand-off Hardcastle nearly made them pay with a trademark show and go, only to lose control when stretching at the whitewash - something he did again after the break.
Adam Dent did make them pay, though, thanks to Saltonstall' swift act of catching and passing in the tackle, giving his winger the simple task of catching and touching down. Dent may score a lot more in his career, but few will be as easy.
Captain Jack Lee quickly increased the lead, and what a blow it was for London. They had kept out York's next attack, but Lee touched down after stealing the ball one-on-one in their first tackle.
The Knights nearly added to their 18-10 lead after half-time as Mallinder was held up over the whitewash and Adam Dent had a try ruled out as Saltonstall’s pass was forward.
A flying Saltonstall was also denied by the officials - more controversially - as Jonny Presley’s super short ball was likewise called forward.
Greg Minikin was also held up over the line but fears York would pay for missed chances were allayed as Saltonstall planted the ball down following Lee's short-side pass.
In a fluent next attack, Ed Smith broke and played a one-two with Saltonstall to make it 30-10.
Skolars hooker Martyn Smith struck back, Sam Druce goaling, but their hopes of nicking a bonus point evaporated as Davies and big Rob Thomas watched each other as the restart bounced out - York having the last word as Jack Aldous’ offload put Haynes in.
Knights: Haynes 8, A Dent 6, Saltonstall 8, Minikin 8, B Dent 7, B Hardcastle 6, Presley 7, Joynt 7, Lee 7, Aldous 7, Mallinder 7, E Smith 8, Paterson 7. Subs (all used): P Smith 6, Harper 6, Freer 6, Golden 5.
Tries: Mallinder 7; A Dent 25; Lee 28; Saltonstall 65; E Smith 67; Haynes 76.
Conversions: B Hardcastle 7, 25 28, 65, 67, 76.
Skolars: Tuffour, Greenhalgh, Mvududu, Paxton, Kabia, Davies, Bradley, Pelo, M Smith, MacDonald, Wellings, Cox, Williams. Subs (all used): Robinson, Thomas, Druce, Sykes.
Tries: Wellings 12; Greenhalgh 17; M Smith 74.
Conversions: Bradley 12; Dunce 74
Man of the match: James Haynes - barring one mistake under a high ball, the full-back was very safe at the back, pulled off a couple of important cover tackles and, like in the win at Gateshead, regularly got York onto the front foot when in possession.
Referee: Adam Gill (Widnes) – ruined an otherwise decent show with bouts of pedantry and some odd decisions, such as denying James Saltonstall a try when calling Jonny Presley’s pass forward, and when penalising Greg Minikin for a knock-on when he cleanly picked up a loose ball.
Moment of the match: Ed Smith’s score, a 50-metre move down the right, was the pick of the six tries.
Gaffe of the match: both London’s first-half tries came on the back of penalties, but the Skolars were more guilty of daft mistakes which turned the ball over cheaply, not least when Mufaro Mvududu had his pocket picked by Jack Lee for a first-half try.
Gamebreaker: The first try after half-time, by James Saltonstall on 65 minutes, was important in providing breathing space, but the last one before the break, Jack Lee’s ball-steal try which gave York a flattering 18-10 lead, was clearly a painful blow for the visitors.
Match rating: not the most fluent encounter but a good workmanlike win for the Knights.
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