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Pluck runs out for York City Knights youngsters in 50-0 defeat at Batley Bulldogs
Batley Bulldogs 50, York City Knights 0
YORK City Knights’ young team have been plucky in recent weeks but never have they looked so green as they did at Batley.
Decimated by injuries, they have had to throw in rookie after novice after rookie.
The latest, Harry Carter, the little under-18s hooker, along with the likes of Liam Ellis, the club’s youngest-ever player, had to contend with the sight of giant pair Keegan Hirst and Alex Walmsley bullocking towards them down the infamous Mount Pleasant slope.
It’s an introduction to Championship rugby even Darth Vader wouldn’t have fancied.
The few players with experience and proven ability left in York’s ranks were powerless to do anything about the one-way traffic.
Player-boss Chris Thorman tried his utmost to create something, anything, but by the second half he cut a frustrated figure, muttering to himself and shaking his head.
To be fair, no one could blame him if he left the field wondering why he bothered giving his all. With so many new, fresh-faced players around him, he wasn’t just organising them on the field but coaching them as they went.
Few could have had tougher debut seasons as a head coach and he probably can’t wait to start his new job as an assistant at Huddersfield. There were two positives, though. One was Carter’s display in his open-age baptism of fire, impressing with a few darts and decent distribution.
The other was that the home torrent subsided, partly through gutsy work by York and partly good fortune. The visitors never looked like scoring, though, and suffered the ignominy of being nilled for the first time in a league game since reforming as the Knights ten years ago.
The injury woes got yet worse, and in worrying circumstances, as young full-back Ben Dent was treated for a perilous neck injury. So concerned were the doctors that they strapped him into a stretcher while stood upright before carrying him off.
Additionally, teenager Tyler Craig, who likewise had had a difficult day, departed with concussion – the club’s ridiculous scrum-half curse striking yet again – and second-rows John Davies and Ed Smith were also withdrawn with injury, leaving the visitors with 13 fit players in the last quarter.
By then the game was long gone, with the Knights getting away with a 50-0 scoreline which didn’t quite do justice to the Bulldogs’ physical superiority.
York had the slope in the first half but made little use of it, Batley on top even before Johnny Campbell’s fifth-minute opener from a chip by Gareth Moore, the one-time York scrum-half who ended the day with seven conversions.
A rare York foray then ended with a counter-attack by full-back Gareth Potts, which created a try for Ben Black.
York were second best in contact and got driven back and dumped on their backs more than in recent weeks. Not once did they get out an offload.
Batley also broke countless tackles, with the Knights unable to contend with their injections of pace or aggression, not least when Danny Maun sprinted through. Centre Maun had just had an argument with his winger Alex Brown and his run was full of intent.
Brown responded with a try, too, but his was ruled out for a forward pass.
York’s attacking lines were flat and passes short and easy to read, barring the occasional element of creativity, albeit in vain, from sole playmaker Thorman. It was harsh on the player-boss that one desperate attempt to try something different backfired. Home full-back Potts won the race to Thorman’s chip over the defensive line, skipped around Thorman, through an enormous gap and beyond Dent, who gave up the chase.
Thorman also had salt rubbed into his wounded pride when darting out of the line to close down a Batley attack only to be harshly deemed offside, the hosts duly extending their lead to 28-0 on the half-time hooter through young sub Mattie Wildie.
Rampaging runs by runaway trains Hirst and Walmsley, leaving Craig floored in the process, set the tone for the second half. Three tries in three sets followed for Brown, twice, and Ash Lindsay.
York somehow stopped the rot, though, while the ten-minute delay for Dent to be treated brought further respite.
As soon as the game restarted, Jason Walton added to the lead, but, with the half-century up, it got no worse, with Potts having a try ruled out for a forward pass and the Knights surviving a few other scrapes.
York even had two chances to break their duck – firstly from an interception by Dario Esposito, which went to waste, and then from a chip and chase by Matt Garside. But maybe even the players didn’t really believe they’d score.
Batley: Campbell, Potts, Walton, Maun, Brown, Black, Moore, Smith, Mennell, Scott, Bretherton, Applegarth, Lindsay. Subs used: Wildie, Hirst, A Walmsley, L Walmsley.
Tries: Campbell 5; Black 13; Maun 23; Potts 33; Wildie 40; Brown 43, 48; Lindsay 45; Walton 67. Conversions: Moore 13, 23, 33, 40, 45, 48, 67.
Drop goals: None.
Sent off: None.
Knights: Dent 5, Pryce 6, Poutney 6, Garside 6, Elliott 6, Thorman 7, Craig 5, Sullivan 5, Brining 6, Aldous 6, E Smith 5, Davies 5, Freer 6. Subs (all used): Carter 6, Sutton 6, Ellis 5, Esposito 6.
Drop goals: None.
Sent off: None.
Man of the match: Chris Thorman – everything he did was in vain.
Referee: Matthew Thomason (Warrington) – fine.
Penalty count: 6-6. Attendance: 741.
Moment of the match: when Batley stopped scoring after three tries in the first three sets of the second- half, it felt like a minor victory.
Gaffe of the match: any of the many missed tackles.
Gamebreaker: there was never really a game to break after Batley went ahead up the hill.
Match rating: one-sided with little atmosphere.