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Match report: Dewsbury Rams 30, York City Knights 10
THREE wins out of four in the Northern Rail Cup brought some cause for optimism at Huntington Stadium – but much of that positivity was blown away in the first 40 minutes of the season proper.
The Knights trailed 12-0 at half-time of yesterday’s Championship opener at Dewsbury, and the visitors were lucky to be only two tries behind.
A much-improved start to the second half garnered hope of a comeback but then a howler by, of all people, captain James Ford – losing the ball in a tackle for Dwayne Barker to bag the Rams’ third try – swung the game back the hosts’ way, and they went on to win it 30-10.
The Knights thus slumped back to the Minster city, tails between legs, without so much as a bonus point from a game against the one side they had done the double over last year, and one of the supposedly weaker sides in the division.
Player-boss Chris Thorman always sought positives during the Northern Rail campaign – but there were very few yesterday.
Missed one-on-one tackles abounded and, similarly worryingly, there was little cohesion in attack, with the half-back partnership between Thorman and Jordan Tansey still nowhere near clicking.
In fact, Tansey – who gives more evidence with every passing week that he is indeed a full-back and not, as was hoped, the solution to the Knights’ scrum-half problem – did not even flatter to deceive yesterday, against a club with whom he had a brief stint early last year before returning to Super League. Thorman was also somewhat below-par.
Barring one sweeping move between Tom Bush and Ben Hellewell, which brought a try for Bush, the Knights rarely threatened, their only other touchdown coming from a home howler.
Another cause for concern was the fact Dewsbury came out by far the more fired up, and duly gleaned rewards as Austin Buchanan gave them the lead after only two minutes.
Buchanan was one of three ex-Knights in their line-up, Ryan Esders having passed a late fitness test while prop Ben Jones, who likewise left York in the autumn, was okay after illness.
Dewsbury also had hookers Craig Cook and George Flanagan, as well as Andy Smith, back in the 17, although former Super League veteran Nick Fozzard remained unfit, along with two more front-line forwards in ex-Knights Rob Spicer and John Davies.
For York, prop star Paul King was not fit and Ed Smith was also omitted due to injury. Dave Sutton was preferred to George Elliott in the vacant wing berth, with the latter on the bench.
The hosts should have had a second try within five minutes as Buchanan’s inside scoring pass to Ayden Faal was judged forward.
But it was not long before the Knights’ right-side defence – where Tansey at times looked lost – was cut apart again, Buchanan making the initial ground, and Faal finishing. Patch Walker goaled.
Thorman’s men did get a foothold in the game but, when sets were completed, bad decisions or shoddy execution meant the Rams still looked the more likely to score next, which they did, albeit with only a penalty on the half-time hooter, Walker superbly booting it from just inside his own half.
The main positive of the first half for York was that they trailed only 12-0, and they began the second far better.
They finished four of their first five sets in Dewsbury’s ten-metre area and with the other forced a drop-out.
The Rams, on the other hand, did not get inside York’s 20-metre zone, and the pressure told as York scored quite superbly with their sixth set.
Right-winger Bush fielded a kick, slipped Hellewell through a gap, and kept up in support as the full-back made great ground, to get on the end of the return pass and just reach the left corner.
Dewsbury’s first real attack of the half saw Esders held on his back over the try-line by Ford and Sutton – who justified his selection as one of few error-free performers – and the Knights remained in the ascendancy.
But then came the self-inflicted sucker punch, Barker gleefully pouncing on Ford’s fumble 20 metres from his own line.
Several Knights marred okay displays with at least one poor moment. Ford, who had otherwise done well, keeping Esders quiet and looking the Knights’ biggest threat in attack, was the most obvious case in point.
Hard-working pair Hellewell and Jack Aldous were others. Hellewell lost the ball after one of a few good kick returns, while Aldous had the ball stolen in a one-on-one tackle.
It all helped Dewsbury to stay in control.
An ankle tap by Matt Garside denied home full-back James Craven but the Rams kept the ball alive for Faal to score another try down York’s right.
Sutton picked up a loose ball for a soft try in response, Thorman goaling, but the Rams finished with a flourish, Josh Tonks racing through from a pass by Walker, who ended with four conversions.
• There was a minute’s silence before the game in memory of the six soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan last week, including Dewsbury lad Cpl Jake Hartley.
Dewsbury: Craven, Akaidere, Esders, Faal, Buchanan, Walker, Spaven, Jones, Cook, Crossley, Tonks, Barker, Blake.
Subs (all used): Flanagan, Nicholson, A Smith, Harris.
Tries: Buchanan 2; Faal 12; Barker 57; Faal 67; Tonks 76.
Conversions: Walker 12, 57, 67, 76.
Penalties: Walker 40.
Drop goals: None.
Sent off: None.
Knights: Hellewell 7, Bush 6, Ford 6, Garside 5, Sutton 7, Thorman 5, Tansey 5, Sullivan 7, Lee 6, Houston 6, Clarke 6, Haughey 5, Aldous 6.
Subs (all used): Elliott 6, C Green 6, Benson 6, Broughton 6.
Tries: Bush 50; Sutton 70.
Conversions: Thorman 70.
Drop goals: None.
Sent off: None.
Man of the match: Adam Sullivan – the prop wasn’t spectacular but he did his job well enough when others around him didn’t do theirs.
Referee: Ronnie Laughton (Barnsley) – not bad.
Penalty count: 7-6.
Weather: sun was shining, having already dried up a previously boggy pitch.
Moment of the match: Bush’s try, finishing a long-range move involving himself and Ben Hellewell.
Gaffe of the match: a comeback looked on after Bush’s try, but then James Ford dropped the ball 20 metres from his own line, and Dwayne Barker picked up to stretch the lead to 18-4 and get the Rams back on top.
Gamebreaker: that Dwayne Barker try changed the course of a second half York had hitherto dominated.
Match rating: poor first half by York set the scene for a disappointing day.