12:00pm Wednesday 14th March 2012
By Peter Martini
IMPROVING first contacts in the tackle could work wonders for York City Knights as they look to regroup after the disappointing start to their Co-operative Championship campaign.
That was the view of captain James Ford ahead of the Knights’ first home game of the league season on Sunday, against 2010 champions Halifax.
Ford admitted he was involved in a major turning point which swung Sunday’s league opener at Dewsbury the way of the hosts, but said he should have been given a penalty for reefing.
The incident saw Ford lose the ball in a ruck, with Dwayne Barker picking up the pieces to put the Rams 18-4 ahead just when it appeared a York comeback was afoot. Dewsbury went on to win 30-10.
Nevertheless, the skipper admitted his side needed to find big improvements to take anything from big-spending Fax, most importantly in first contact.
“We’ve got to stick together as a group. We will work hard – we need to work on our first contact in defence. Everything follows on from there. There are 300 contacts in a game in your defence and if you lose 200 of them, it has a massive effect.
“Players felt tired because of the amount of work we were having to do due to not winning the first contact. We’re fit enough. We looked fatigued not because of fitness but because we weren’t doing things right.
“Contact can be a mentality thing. A lot of people say it’s a size or strength issue, but you get small people running around belting folk. Look at Rob Burrow (Leeds Rhinos scrum-half). He’s half the size of some people he’s up against but he belts people. He’s got that desire, that attitude. We need to be a bit more desperate in our contacts.”
He added: “We’re not looking at the Halifax result. We’re looking at our performance and at improving the things we need to improve.
“Hopefully you’ll see a more physical, more enthusiastic, less tired team against Halifax, and that will put us right in the mix.”
York trailed 12-0 at Tetley’s Stadium after Dewsbury dominated the first half. They got the first try of the second half and seemed in the ascend-ancy – until Barker’s touchdown against the run of play on 57 minutes.
Ford said: “It was a turning point. We were on the back foot for periods but had hung in there and momentum was with us. It was a big thing to lose momentum. To be honest, it was not a lost ball – it was a stolen ball. I was pretty upset by the officials’ decision.
“The player had two or three goes at the ball. I had it gripped against my chest and as I was going down and going for a quick play-the-ball, he had two or three goes at getting it out.
“It was unfortunate for Ronnie Laughton (referee) that the touch judge gave him the wrong call.
“I said if he’d played the game he would know that if a ball came out at that speed with that trajectory, then it couldn’t be a fumble.
“Officials do make mistakes, though, as do players, and realistically we’ve got to look at ourselves.
“We obviously didn’t play well, but we did remarkably well to be only 12-0 down at half-time.
“We scrambled a few times and one or two people came up with big efforts to keep it to 12-0.
“We spent the first 40 on the back foot and I think the York of old would have capitulated in the first half, but we hung in there.
“We earned the right to be back in the game at 12-4 but then the turning point was that ball steal.”
Ford had come directly up against ex-Knight Ryan Esders, who was playing at centre for the Rams. Esders is known for his physicality but Ford disregarded the notion his former team-mate might have used underhand tactics which went unpunished by officials.
“Ryan’s a good player,” he said. “He’s big, strong and powerful and he’s aggressive.
“He had a good game. He played the game tough but it wouldn’t be Ryan if he didn’t.”
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