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Match report: York City Knights 26, Swinton Lions 22
York City Knights player Danny Nicklas, left crunches into a juddering tackle on Swinton Lions player Chaz L’Anson
IT’S taken ten games, 800 minutes of rugby league, but York City Knights have finally done it. They have their first Co-operative Championship victory.
Not only did this 26-22 victory over Swinton Lions bring that elusive win, but it also lifted them off the bottom of the table – something that must look fantastic today to all supporters of Chris Thorman’s men.
They had to scrap, and battle, in an entertaining game which, at times, swayed to and fro and might just as easily have gone in the Lions’ favour.
But their determination and some scintillating rugby, particularly the game-winning try scored by Matt Garside after tremendous work between Jordan Tansey and Waine Pryce, means few will begrudge player-coach Thorman and his team their first moment in the sun.
Pryce, missing since the Northern Rail Cup clash with the Lions because of a partially ruptured quad, came straight back into the starting line-up despite Thursday’s reserve clash with Featherstone being called off because of a waterlogged pitch.
And the playing surface, which looks to be deteriorating rapidly as the campaign wears on, was the focus of pre-match attention with groundstaff working hard to fill in divots with sand following torrential rain on Saturday afternoon.
Swinton, in particular, were unhappy with a pitch that looked decidedly unfit for the second tier of rugby league.
It was the Knights’ new half-back combination, though, with Thorman linking up with new dual-registration signing Danny Nicklas, that was the focus for the home fans – and the new partnership took barely two minutes to make an impact.
Good link-up work between the pair gave Tansey the opportunity to move on to the ball with pace and he got into a position to free George Elliott, who stepped inside off the wing and through a vacant defence to score.
It was the perfect start, but Swinton were soon showing their own attacking intent. This time, it was the Knights turn to go missing in defence, as the visitors scored twice in three minutes.
Kevin Penny got the first, going over in the corner following quick hands down the left on nine minutes, and Richard Hawkyard put the Lions in front – finishing off a surge which saw Swinton half-backs Martin Ainscough and Ian Watson show an incisive turn of foot and a superb offload from the latter.
But York replied swiftly. Again, it was great work from Thorman and Nicklas, who found Tansey. He gave it to Garside, 12 metres out, and, despite still having a lot of work to do, put his head down and drove to the line in the right corner.
Then John Davies, back on dual-reg terms from Castleford, bulldozed his way to the line from five metres after more good work from Tansey and Jack Lee.
Back came Swinton.
Tom Armstrong reduced the visitors’ 16-8 deficit to just two points at half-time when smashing through in the corner after a good pass from Ian Watson with the home players unhappy about an alleged infringement in the build-up and they took the lead when the Knights got off to the worst possible start after the break.
They lost possession cheaply in their own half and Adam Higson made them pay when he flailed and kicked his way to the line, despite the attentions of several defenders, only a minute after the resumption.
Having lost from promising positions before, it looked for a while as York might once again come up short. Paul King had a try controversially ruled out by referee Gareth Hewer, who judged the former Great Britain prop had bounced the ball down after he powered over after showing a great dummy.
Then Gavin Dodd put Swinton 22-16 ahead when the Knights ran out of numbers as the visitors worked the ball right.
This was the Knights’ time, though, and they found an extra gear.
Suddenly rediscovering their cutting edge in brilliant fashion with 17 minutes remaining, Nicklas, Thorman and Tansey were all once again involved and, injecting speed and purpose with quick hands, James Ford went over in the corner.
But they saved the best for last.
Tansey picked up a sensational offload and sprinted past covering defenders. He found Pryce outside and, rather than go it alone, the winger drew the defender across and popped a perfect ball inside to the supporting Garside, who made no mistake.
Thorman’s conversion gave the Knights a four-point cushion and, despite a tense final six minutes, they were not to be denied. At last.
Knights: Tansey 9, Pryce 7, Ford 7, Garside 8, Elliott 7, Thorman 7, Nicklas 8, Sullivan 7, Lee 7, Aldous 7, Clarke 7, Davies 7, King 7.
Subs: Turner 7, Freer 7, Green 7. Bush not used.
Tries: Elliott 2, Garside 14, 74, Davies 18, Ford 63.
Conversions: Thorman 2, 18, 74.
Drop goals: None.
Sent off: None.
Swinton: Richard Hawkyard, Gavin Dodd, Adam Higson, Tom Armstrong, Kevin Penny, Martin Ainscough, Ian Watson, Adam Walker, Mark Smith, Carl Forster, Dale Cunniffe, Chris Clarke, Chaz I’Anson.
Subs (all used): Mike Morrison, Glen Riley, Neil Holland, Karl Ashall.
Tries: Penny 9, Hawkyard 11, Armstrong 33, Higson 41, Dodd 58.
Conversions: Dodd 33.
Drop goals: None.
Sent off: None.
Man of the match: Jordan Tansey – easily his best game in a Knights shirt.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven) – steady first half muddied by inconsistency after the break.
Weather: Cloudy, and driving rain at the end of the game, but no wind.
Moment of the match: Matt Garside’s clinching try came following a superb move involving Jordan Tansey and Waine Pryce.
Gaffe of the match: Pryce could have put his side in trouble when flapping at a high ball gave Swinton possession close to the Knights line.
Match rating: A highly entertaining match that justly brought the Knights their first league win of the season.