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Match report: Featherstone 34, York City Knights 14
A WONDERFULLY brave display saw York City Knights come within 12 minutes of taking all three points from Big Fellas Stadium – but they ended with nothing.
Two yellow cards and two tries in five mad minutes before half-time saw the Knights go in 14-0 up with the biggest shock result of the Championship season in sight.
However, the champions came out fired up for the second half and they rampaged down the famous Post Office Road slope time after time. Chris Thorman’s injury-hit men held on as long as possible but after Andy Kain’s try eked the hosts ahead on 68 minutes, a six-minute hat-trick from Nathan Chappell took them to a 34-14 victory.
It left the Knights out of bonus point range, although the courageous efforts of their depleted ranks deserved more.
Two more changes had been enforced on player-boss Thorman ahead of the game with forwards James Houston and Joe Hemmings joining the injury list.
Hemmings has a shoulder knock, while Houston fell foul of the sciatic nerve curse, full-back James Haynes having been out all season with a related problem.
Thankfully, Ed Smith returned to fitness to take a bench spot, where he was joined by Adam Howard for a rare first-team start.
However, the team lost John Davies to a shoulder injury in the first half, and at one point their pack comprised effectively six rookies in sub hooker Brett Turner, Howard, who belied his inexperience with brute force, pocket battleship Jack Aldous, teenager Smith, in his first outing for a month, Rhys Clarke, who is still only 20, and Dave Sutton, a newcomer to the second row.
Scrum-half Ben Johnston also had to go off in the second half with a dislocated thumb.
Featherstone were without Carl Briggs, while Gareth Raynor has recently retired, but they had two eye-catching debutants in Andy Ellis, on loan from Wakefield, and Jack Briscoe, 20-year-old brother of England’s Tom, on dual-registration from Hull.
Rovers have been both brilliant and indifferent so far this season, but, on paper and form, it should have been a cakewalk.
The visitors were better in the opening quarter before Rovers briefly got on top. A try seemed afoot as Matty Dale drove towards the line, but Matt Garside, Johnston and Tom Bush somehow prevented the grounding.
Within a minute, York were ahead thanks to superb solo try from James Ford, flying down the hill and rounding full-back Ian Hardman as if he wasn’t there.
Then came the Davies blow. He was clearly hurt in a hit-up, but bravely went to defend on the wing. Fev may have spotted this as they immediately sent a high kick in his direction, and he landed in agony, departing with his shirt a makeshift sling.
York soon crossed the whitewash again, sub hooker Turner going low from dummy-half after Howard had driven close. But, with referee Ronnie Laughton unsighted, a touch judge said Turner had knocked on.
But a bonkers five minutes before half-time saw the Knights increase their lead.
Firstly, some fisticuffs off the ball in Fev’s left corner – with Greg Worthington throwing roundhouses at Bush, before other players joined in, notably Garside, who dealt swift retribution – ended with the initial protagonists sin-binned and the whole incident put on report.
Right-winger Bush had been targeted all game with kicks so maybe Rovers had pinpointed the former Leeds youngster for treatment.
Once play restarted, a wonderful long pass from Thorman had Ford steaming home again.
Then before the hooter, a clever Thorman kick into no-man’s land saw the ball bobble awkwardly between full-back Hardman’s legs and opposite number Jordan Tansey, among the chasers, swept it up to score his first Championship try, Thorman goaling.
The second half, as expected, was different, as Fev sped things up and steamrollered down the hill.
They were on the mark within five minutes as Andy Bostock leapt highest to score from a Kain kick.
They then forced two drop-outs, got away with a forward pass, and had a penalty. Bostock duly scored – but brave defence was rewarded as the try was disallowed for obstruction.
There was no stopping the big man next time, though, albeit after another blatant forward pass in back play.
The pressure was relentless. Elliott denied Bostock a hat-trick when patting down a pass; then Bostock had another try chalked off for one of two forward passes.
The Knights were defying odds to hold on, but the inevitable came as Kain ducked under Clarke’s tackle to scamper to the posts, Liam Finn’s second conversion edging the hosts ahead.
Soon enough, Chappell also crossed, and he quickly completed an excellent converted treble through tired defence.
Featherstone: Hardman, Briscoe, Smeaton, Worthington, Chappell, Kain, Finn, England, Kaye, Dickens, Dale, Spears, Hepworth.
Subs (all used): Ellis, Bostock, Haley, Maloney.
Tries: Bostock 45, 57; Kain 68; Chappell 72, 73, 78.
Conversions: Finn 45, 68, 72, 73, 78.
Drop goals: None.
Sin-binned: Worthington 36.
Sent off: None.
Knights: Tansey 7, Bush 7, Ford 8, Garside 7, Elliott 7, Thorman 8, Johnston 7, Sullivan 8, Lee 7, Aldous 8, Clarke 7, Davies 6, King 7.
Subs (all used): Turner 6, Sutton 6, Smith 6, Howard 7.
Tries: Ford 24, 37; Tansey 40.
Conversions: Thorman 40.
Sin-binned: Bush 36.
Sent off: None.
Man of the match: James Ford – had the beating of his man throughout the first half, although he was powerless against big Andy Bostock after the break.
Referee: Ronnie Laughton (Barnsley) – wasn’t too bad, though his touch judges missed several forward passes.
Moment of the match: James Ford’s brilliant long-range try.
Gaffe of the match: Must go to the touch judges for failing to spot a few obviously forward passes.
Match-breaker: There was little chance of a knackered York coming back after Andy Kain put a rampant Rovers ahead with 12 minutes to go.
Match rating: Knights deserved more from a battling show against the champions.