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York City Knights 26, Keighley Cougars 28
Close-season signing George Elliott carries the ball forward for York City Knights against Keighley Cougars
NEW signing Jordan Tansey might have been centre of attention at Huntington Stadium yesterday, with York City Knights fans excited by his potential half-back partnership with player-boss Chris Thorman.
But that pair watched the Knights’ opening friendly of 2012 against Keighley from the stands – Thorman wearing his head coach’s hat – as newcomers Brett Turner and Lee Williams were given first dabs at showing their worth in the creative roles.
They were part of what was largely a young second string, and Thorman was happy with what he saw, notwithstanding the 28-26 scoreline in Keighley’s favour.
“Our average age was 21, and it was a phenomenal effort when you consider the players in the Keighley side,” he said. “There were lots of positives.
“We faded in the second half, but I don’t think that was an issue when you consider the people we had not involved.”
Neither Turner nor Williams – who are similar in diminutive stature to Sam Obst, Keighley’s former Super League ace whom they were up against at half-back – have experience at Championship level but both buzzed around, organising keenly, and at times showing an adept kicking game.
Turner twice sent the ball out on the full but it was his smart little chip, backed by a good chase, that forced an early drop-out, and the former West Hull amateur also orchestrated the follow-up attack that saw Matt Garside open the scoring after good work from Ed Smith.
Olly Pursglove replied, but York went back ahead after Jy-Mel Coleman spilled the ball and George Elliott, the Easingwold lad who has signed from Leeds, hacked forward 20 metres and sprinted to touch down.
In Keighley’s ranks were former top-tier stars Obst, Semi Tadulala, Michael Korkidas and player-coach Jason Demetriou, who had an aborted spell at the Knights last pre-season before taking over at Cougar Park. Former Knights second-row Chris Clough and one-time reserve York half-back Coleman also started, while ex-Bradford academy prop Jode Sheriffe, who had a brief spell at Heworth ARLC in the autumn, featured off the bench.
Their second try was made in Super League. Sub prop Korkidas was held up over the try-line by young Kris Brining and Haynes but it was merely a stay of execution as Demetriou sent in Tadulala.
Nevertheless, it became 16-8 to York at half-time as Haynes jinked through after Williams had seen the ball knocked from his grasp. Haynes, who also kicked three conversions, laid down strong claims to be first-choice full-back, though Tom Bush did his own chances little harm with his second-half show in that role.
Thorman left out several front-line players, in addition to himself, including props Paul King, Alex Benson and Adam Sullivan, winger Waine Pryce, centre James Ford and hooker Jack Lee.
In their stead were the likes of Brining, who impressed early on at dummy-half, trialist John Gay, a diminutive player like Turner and Williams who had a run at hooker, and fellow hopefuls Davey Burns, Joe Hemmings, Ben Dent and Tyler Craig – four players continuing their respective rises out of York’s amateur scene.
Hemmings limped off after 20 decent minutes at prop but his dead leg is not thought to be serious.
Adam Howard, the big dreadlocked prop who spent much of last season in the reserves after making the big step up from the summer amateur game, also made a decent impression off the bench – especially upon the opponent he floored early in the second half.
The game as a whole was a bit scrappy, as can be expected of such trial matches, and, although Demetriou reckoned his side fluffed several chances, York maybe had more to be pleased about in general. It was their first hit-out of pre-season, while Keighley had played Halifax on Boxing Day.
The Cougars went ahead in the second half through James Feather and Tadulala, before Gay, busy at dummy-half, boosted his hopes of a York contract with a good finish to equalise.
Clough scored against his former club and Lawton sealed the visitors’ victory by adding a close-range try to his two conversions, before Jack Aldous finished well from 20 metres at the other end, set up by James Houston, in the last minute.
York City Knights: Haynes, Sutton, Garside, Elliott, Bush, Turner, Williams, Hemmings, Brining, Aldous, Clarke, E Smith, Houston. Subs (all used): Gay, Dent, Burns, Howard, Tyler Craig.
Tries: Garside 5; Elliott 14, Haynes 37; Gay 56; Aldous 79. Goals: Haynes 3/5.
Keighley Cougars: Haythornthwaite, Duffy, Tadulala, Storton, Lawton, Coleman, Obst, Shickell, Feather, Cherryholme, Clough, Pursglove, Demetriou. Subs (all used): Jones, Korkidas, Sheriffe, R Smith, Lynam, Snowden, Stead.
Tries: Pursglove 8; Tadulala 30, 53; Feather 49; Clough 71; Lawton 75. Goals: Lawton 2/6.
Referee: Ronnie Laughton (Barnsley).