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Match report: Knights 10, Sheffield Eagles 28
YORK City Knights were given notice of just how tough the Championship will be when losing 28-10 to Sheffield in front of the Sky television cameras.
The Eagles were supposed to be one of the teams the Knights could target for victory in the quest to consolidate following promotion.
But the Steel City men left Huntington Stadium with the spoils last night as size up front and speed out wide made the hosts pay for a number of basic errors in possession.
Dave Woods’ men seemed to be up to pace in a game which largely ebbed and flowed, but several times they lost the ball cheaply, a few times in the danger zone, and at key times too. Sheffield incessantly pounded up the middle and hit York on the edges to make it count.
Rhys Clarke passed his ‘head test’ so was fit to resume in the second row as Woods chose the same 17 as that which drew at Hunslet on Sunday. The coach no doubt hoped his players would prove they could play for the full 80 minutes after that poor first half in south Leeds.
Sheffield boss Mark Aston fielded arguably his strongest side of the year, with exciting new recruit Quentin Laulu-Togagae, the Samoan international, making his first start at full-back, one of a few changes to the team beaten by Widnes.
Pat Smith, the York-based starlet and brother of the Knights’ Ed, was another change, a surprise name on the bench, as replacement hooker for 20 minutes when the excellent Andrew Henderson was spelled.
York were inches away from a great start as the video referee ruled out a second-minute Nathan Massey try, deeming the prop to be held just short.
The game was noticeably faster than the match at Hunslet – and Sheffield displayed good speed of hand and foot for Laulu-Togagae to open the scoring on 11 minutes, Simon Brown goaling.
But York quickly hit back as Jack Lee surprised everyone by going down the short side and John Davies blasted over. Chris Thorman’s conversion attempt hit a post.
Lee dropped the restart – he was not the only player guilty of a basic mistake – to give Sheffield a full set in the red zone, but the defence was excellent.
Then brilliance by York’s two half-backs – both playing against their former club – put York ahead.
Thorman made a break, avoiding a clattering challenge from big South Sea Islander Menzie Yere in the process, and, when the ball was switched left, Jonny Presley cut inside and sprinted home, Thorman goaling.
The lead only lasted seven minutes.
Great goal-line defence saw the hosts hold firm for two sets, but York were made to pay for a loose carry by right-winger Dave Sutton, who had fielded a misplaced pass on his own whitewash only to lose the ball one-on-one to Mitchell Stringer in the hit-up.
From the continued pressure, a long pass to the left touchline saw Danny Mills score, Brown goaling expertly.
A few excellent sets – without the ball as much as with it – gave York good territory but it was ruined by another mistake from Tom Bush.
The full-back had looked excellent in the opening half-hour, with no apparent loss of confidence following his costly howlers against London Skolars and Hunslet. But he fumbled a play-the-ball on the Sheffield whitewash, when a try would have given York a half-time lead.
An ensuing penalty relieved the mounting pressure, and the game ebbed and flowed once again. Bush had a fine second half, but again ruined by one daft spill near to his own line.
A superb swirling kick by Thorman brought the first mistake from Bush’s opposite number, Laulu-Togagae, and the first opportunity of the second half, but this time Sheffield displayed fine defence and the chance was gone as Thorman failed to take in a poor pass.
Then came two quick-fire – and decisive – tries.
Two penalties took Sheffield from their line to York’s, and the visitors benefited as Mills touched down by the flag again. Referee Tim Roby got his share of heckles as Brown goaled.
Roby had nothing to do with the next try on the next attack. Yere embarked on a quite brilliant run and Jason Crookes scored.
Sheffield missed another chance from another speedy break, while at the other end centre Jordan Thompson twice held on when a pass would have put his winger, Sutton, clear.
Then a wonderful move, involving five players, ended with Presley just unable to take in a desperate would-be scoring pass from Clarke.
And it was game over as Alex Rowe crossed with six minutes left, Brown goaling again.
Knights: Bush 7, Sutton 6, Thompson 6, Straugheir 7, Wilson 6, Thorman 7, Presley 7, Massey 7, Lee 7, Benson 7, Clarke 8, Davies 7, Jones.
Subs (all used): Freer 6, Garside 6, Barron 6, Lewis 7.
Tries: Davies 14; Presley 22.
Conversions: Thorman 22.
Sheffield: Laulu-Togagae, Mills, Yere, Crookes, Bergin, Wood, Brown, Howieson, Henderson, Higgins, Szostak, Green, Hirst.
Subs (all used): Hepworth, Rowe, P Smith, Stringer.
Tries: Laulu-Togagae 11; Mills 29, 53; Crookes 55; Rowe 74.
Conversions: Brown 11, 29, 53, 74.
Man of the match: Rhys Clarke – battled well against Sheffield’s big, strong pack and got through good work.
Referee: Tim Roby (St Helens) – got some stick from home fans, though neither he nor they had the benefit of television replays when making certain calls.
Penalty count: 3-5.
Weather: pleasant enough.
Moment of the match: Chris Thorman avoided a hefty challenge from the powerful Menzie Yere, skipped forward and fed Jordan Thompson to make more ground. The ball then went left where Jonny Presley jinked inside and darted to the line to score a first-half try against his former club.
Gaffe of the match: There were too many basic errors, all marring decent endeavour.
Gamebreaker: Sheffield’s two tries in two minutes in the third quarter gave York a mountain they could not climb as they kept losing their footing with handling errors.
Match rating: faster than Sunday’s game at Hunslet and with nowt in it at half-time, but the Knights learned teams can’t expect to made so many errors at this level and get away with it.
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