YORK City Knights completed a splendid hat-trick of revenge missions – despite lightning striking twice at the Prince of Wales Stadium.
In June, York built a 16-0 lead only to throw it away, with Austin Bell also sent off in the second half. The 24-22 reverse that day was Gary Thornton’s team’s last defeat in Championship One.
They again built a 16-0 lead only to throw it away, again allowing Gloucestershire All Golds to gain an ascendancy. And they again had a man sent off in the second half – Ed Smith seeing red amid an all-in brawl.
Again the referee, this time Widnes whistler Adam Gill, failed to clamp down on lying-on. And again the Knights had points wiped off – four tries ruled out for forward passes.
However, this time, to maintain top spot in the table and further underline their title credentials, they reasserted themselves in a way that shell-shocked their hosts – bagging four tries without reply while a man down for the last 18 minutes.
The Knights thus won 42-18. They have lost three times in the league this term but have now achieved convincing payback for each.
They could hardly have had a better start, as a super-solid opening set culminated in a try.
Pat Smith’s kick to the left corner was perfectly judged in the wind and, while it seemed to be a kick for territory, winger Ben Dent sped up the flank, overtook his opposite number and beat covering full-back Danny Thomas to the ball and the touchdown.
They crossed again, too, before the hosts had touched the ball, but Ben Reynolds’ long scoring pass to James Saltonstall was called forward.
Reynolds’ next fierce cut-out pass brought reward, Tyler Craig on the spot.
Craig had been recalled at centre after Brad Day, on the eve of the match, was called up as 19th man by parent club Castleford.
Brad Brennan was also back after his two-match ban, in place of fellow loanee Jay Leary, though new signing Josh Tonks was left awaiting his debut as Thornton made no further changes to the 17 that had beaten title rivals Oldham so handsomely in the previous revenge mission.
In the next set, Jack Lee scored for the tenth consecutive match – a marvellous milestone and easily a Knights record.
There was an element of fortune as Lee’s initial decision to go for the power-play didn’t work out, but when ball came back to the skipper, he kicked and was first to the ricochet.
Reynolds added the second of his four conversions.
The last time the Knights led 16-0 here, they took their foot off the gas and paid the price.
They suffered from over-confidence again, which afforded the All Golds a foothold in proceedings.
York did go close again as Saltonstall smartly found James Ford, who backed himself only to lose control as he stretched to touch down.
But then the hosts struck.
York countered an All Golds kick to the corner. However, in doing so, Haynes’ pass to Ed Smith – which could have set up a scintillating try - went to ground, the All Golds retook possession and Miles Fairbank crossed for Matt Bradley to convert.
The hosts stayed on top, though it was York who came closest again before half-time, Dent having a try chalked off.
Then, with a penalty after the hooter, 30 metres from his own line, Reynolds, with the wind behind him, amazingly went for goal. The ball dipped a foot underneath the crossbar.
The All Golds made it 16-12 six minutes after the break.
Kriss Brining had already pulled off a wonderful tackle chasing back the length of the pitch to deny Bradley an interception try.
But in the same corner, a superb slipped pass by Sam Te’O – brother of State of Origin star Ben – saw Jarrod Ward score.
Then Reynolds’ restart went out on the full and, from the penalty, Matt White crossed, Bradley’s third goal giving his side an 18-16 lead.
There was a strong sense of déjà vu but up stepped Brennan, blasting through in centrefield, with James Ford up in support to speed home.
Ed Smith was next to have a try chalked off, Reynolds’ slipped pass being deemed forward, and the All Golds would not go away.
Dent needed to chase back to superbly deny Thomas, before a set-to between Joe Pickets and Gloucestershire’s Brendan Smith sparked the brawl which saw that pair sin-binned and Ed Smith sent off, for alleged use of the knee.
The travelling fans feared the worst.
However, York were still awarded the penalty, and Craig’s second try followed, Reynolds again the provider.
It was still 11 against 12 when Ryan Mallinder scored, after Ward had dropped Pat Smith’s kick.
It was 12 against 13 when Dent bagged his excellent second – eyeing up the possibilities before opting to slam in by the flag.
And the fantastic finale was capped by a Haynes solo try.
All Golds: Thomas, Claridge, Cowburn, Te’O, Ward, White, Bradley, McClean, Cook, Stewart, Fairbank, Spencer-Tonks, B Smith. Subs (all used): Canterbury, Chapman-Walker, Foster, Nolan.
Tries: Fairbank 23; Ward 46; White 49.
Conversions: Bradley 23, 46, 49.
Sent off: none.
Sin-binned: B Smith 62.
Knights: Haynes 8, Saltonstall 8, Ford 7, Craig 7, B Dent 8, P Smith 7, Reynolds 7, Roche 8, Lee 7, Aldous 8, Mallinder 7, E Smith 6, Paterson 6. Subs (all used): Brining 7, Backhouse 6, Pickets 6, Brennan 8.
Tries: Dent 1, 73; Craig 13, 64; Lee 15; Ford 51; Mallinder 70; Haynes 80.
Conversions: Reynolds 13, 15, 51, 64, 80.
Sent off: E Smith 62.
Sin-binned: Pickets 62.
Man of the match: Colton Roche – he and Brad Brennan were very prominent up front, running over or through opponents to get their side on the front foot.
Referee: Adam Gill (Widnes) – another Championship One official unable to clamp down on lying-on.
Moments of the match: Two moments of similar worth at the start of each half. Firstly, Ben Dent’s try within 60 seconds – speeding up the wing, overtaking his opposite number and beating the covering full-back to reach Pat Smith’s kick to the corner and get over the whitewash.
Secondly, Gloucestershire’s Matt Bradley intercepted at one end and raced clear – only for Kriss Brining to track back the length of the pitch and tackle the Italy international half-back into touch by the flag.
Gaffe of the match: given what happened here last time, York should have stopped themselves from having a man sent off again.
Gamebreaker: At 11 against 12 and only four points up, Tyler Craig’s second try, finishing well after hitting a great line, came at a great time, just minutes after Ed Smith’s red card, when Gloucestershire should have had their tails up. Ryan Mallinder’s try ten minutes from the end made sure that, even a man down, York would win.
Match rating: Very entertaining with lots going on.