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Match report: York City Knights 12, Hunslet Hawks 50
YORK City Knights endured more woe as they were walloped by arch-rivals Hunslet Hawks at Huntington Stadium.
Dave Woods’ men, hit by injuries and unavailability, and not helped by a host of refereeing calls, crashed 50-12 to stay bottom of the Co-operative Championship with only two points.
All looked well as a much-changed team took an early lead through surprise debutant Benn Hardcastle, but as soon as Hunslet scored, confidence began to ebb away and the inevitable followed.
By the end, heads were as far down as they were in the 76-12 thrashing at Widnes last time out.
The fact it was against Paul March’s Hawks made it worse for many at the club. Former York player-boss March failed his fitness test but there were still nine ex-Knights in their line-up.
For York, the inclusion of former Doncaster and Leigh forward Mark Castle as a substitute just two days after signing on trialist forms highlighted the predicament in the pack with four first-choices missing, which would have been worse but for the return after ten months out of Brett Waller.
There was another big surprise in the starting line-up, with Hardcastle coming in for his debut at half-back after recovering from the broken jaw he suffered playing in the reserves in March after joining from Sheffield.
His inclusion saw Chris Thorman move to full-back – a position in which he played with distinction at times in his Super League career. He was effectively a third half-back when York had possession and, while it seemed to work early on, with all three involved in the opening try, there was a lack of organisation and guile thereafter.
That first try came when Richie Barnett spilled a high Thorman kick and, although he recovered to halt scrum-half Jonny Presley and second-row Matt Garside at the try-line, a penalty followed for a high tackle.
Hardcastle then threw an outrageous dummy and scooted home down the inside left.
Thorman goaled but missed a penalty from a similar position and the upper hand York were getting soon slipped from their grasp.
Two dodgy decisions from referee Jamie Leahy – one for a supposed forward pass – gave Hunslet good field position, and a kick by Danny Grimshaw bounced up for Barnett to score out wide. Elliott Kear’s lesson in goal-kicking began with his first of seven conversions.
Ryan Esders was back from suspension for the Knights and went into the centres rather than the back row, a move designed to combat the threat of Tommy Haughey.
It did not work on 25 minutes when Haughey crashed over, Hunslet having gained possession after Thorman took a high ball on his line but lost it when being shoved towards touch after taking a bad angle when running it back – perhaps a lack of match practice at full-back.
Hardcastle was quiet barring his try and a fine 40-20 – but that field position came to nothing when Castle lost the ball in his first hit-up as he went for the try.
Castle also lost the ball in his second carry, this time in his own half, and, although he got better, the scoreline got far worse.
The lead increased before the break, as Barnett fumbled at a play-the-ball near half-way only for Leahy to decide there was interference. On the back of the penalty, Grimshaw knifed through.
The Knights trailed 26-4 just after half-time of the league opener at Hunslet, before fighting back for a draw.
The second half was all Hunslet this time, though, with Leahy playing the role of sidekick.
Calls for a knock-on underneath a massive bomb from Joe McLocklan fell on deaf refereeing ears and Waine Pryce scored.
Calls for a forward pass in back play also fell on deaf ears as Barnett streaked home.
Hunslet were given two more penalties by Leahy, and Esders was sin-binned for something-and- nothing. Woods had previously slated Esders over his discipline but the Knights boss this time had wrath only for Leahy.
With York down to 12 men, a cut-out pass from McLocklan saw Pryce stroll in.
The biggest cheer of the second half came when York were given a decision by Leahy. The second biggest came when Thorman sped in after a great break from Nathan Freer, but, unlike at South Leeds Stadium, it was too little too late.
Moreover, York messed up the restart and Kear crossed, and, with the Knights totally dispirited, Andy Yates and Kear, again, added to the embarrassment.
• There was a minute’s silence before the game in memory of ex-player Dennis Goodwin, 81, and lifelong fan Phil Lane, both of whom died recently.
Knights: Thorman 6, Sutton 6, Esders 6, Straugheir 6, Waterman 6, Hardcastle 5, Presley 5, Freer 6, Lee 6, Benson 6, Lewis 6, Garside 5, Clarke 5. Subs (all used): Barlow 5, Waller 6, Castle 5, Stearman 6.
Tries: Hardcastle 8; Thorman 67.
Conversions: Thorman 8, 67.
Drop goals: None.
Sin-binned: Esders 52.
Sent off: None.
Hunslet: Kain, Pryce, Haughey, Kear, Barnett, Grimshaw, Ratcliffe, Sullivan, Haigh, Houston, Kelly, Blakeway, D March. Subs (all used): McLocklan, Lowe, Yates, Clayton.
Tries: Barnett 18, 49; Haughey 25; Grimshaw 38; Pryce 46, 57; Kear 70, 80; Yates 76.
Conversions: Kear 18, 25, 38, 46, 49, 70, 76.
Drop goals: None.
Sent off: None.
Man of the match: Alex Benson – the captain drove hard and straight as he tried to lead from the front.
Referee: Jamie Leahy (Dewsbury) – gave York fans plenty to complain about.
Penalty count: 7-12.
Weather: bright and sunny.
Moment of the match: Benn Hardcastle’s debut try on eight minutes, but it was all downhill from there barring an excellent second-half try from Chris Thorman.
Gaffe of the match: the lack of spirit shown by York as Hunslet ran up their big score in the second half.
Gamebreaker: confidence ebbed away from the Knights as soon as Hunslet went ahead.
Match rating: painful for Knights fans.