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York City Knights can’t pull off an unlikely comeback against Championship One leaders Dewsbury
York City Knights’ Jordan Ross is on the receiving end of a crunching tackle from a Dewsbury Rams opponent during yesterday’s 24-18 defeat at Huntington Stadium. Pictures: Frank Dwyer
YORK City Knights almost pulled off the unlikely of comebacks against runaway leaders Dewsbury – but their home fires ultimately burned out.
The Rams came to Huntington Stadium with a 100 per cent Championship One record while the Knights were unbeaten on their own turf throughout 2009, and so something had to give.
Unfortunately for York’s promotion aspirations, it was their proud record that went, despite the surprise fight-back that brought a bonus point and, briefly, hope of more.
Trailing 24-8 with 18 minutes left, stand-off Adam Mitchell chipped to the corner, left-winger John Oakes patted the ball back and centre Tom Haberecht caught it and touched down in one movement.
Seven minutes later, Haberecht embarked on a superb break from substitute Carl Barrow’s pass, and his inside ball saw Danny Ratcliffe streak to the posts for Mitchell’s conversion to make it 24-18.
However, while York tried their damnedest to find an equaliser in the final ten minutes, they failed to seriously threaten the visitors’ line again, as increasingly desperate attempts at a miracle score came to nothing.
Furthermore, a bonus point was, in truth, a flattering return against a side who in reality play Championship-standard rugby in the division below.
Faster, bigger, stronger and better, the relegated Rams have swept all before them this season and it seems only a raft of injuries can deny them an immediate return to the higher tier.
The Knights had actually given themselves hope of a shock win when they took a tenth-minute lead.
They had wasted the first chance – gained when Paul March’s chip saw Mike Mitchell wisely let opposite winger Austin Buchanan catch the ball before pushing him into touch.
But they scored on their next attack, when, on the back of penalties, Adam Sullivan, the scorer of the last of 14 tries in the romp at London Skolars last week, blasted over the line again, with Adam Mitchell converting.
However, the Rams’ defence was on a different planet to the Skolars’ – faster line speed despite exhausting heat, harder hits and tighter teamwork – and it was not breached again in the first half, barring a 34th-minute Mitchell penalty, following a foul on David March.
Fit-again loose-forward March had been one of two changes to the side that routed the Skolars, Mike Mitchell the other returnee, following the injuries picked up in the capital by Dave Clayton and Wayne McHugh.
Clayton was set to play but pulled out late, while the shuffling of players saw Richard Knight move to centre and Mitchell go onto the wing.
Mitchell gave a decent account, but Knight was more peripheral than in his last two games in the pack.
March, meanwhile, had not played for four weeks, barring 40 minutes in the reserves in midweek, and it showed, not least when an offload went into Dewsbury hands, after a beautiful pass out of the tackle by Scott Woodcock had got full-back Ratcliffe racing into opposition territory.
Moreover, his twin, player-coach Paul, was totally off the boil against their home-town club, most notably when three consecutive passes went into no-man’s land as the normally telepathic understanding with his brother failed to click.
It seemed the harder he tried, the least his efforts paid off, and, with his frustration mounting, he lapsed into backchat mode – the unwanted element of his game he had recently suppressed.
It resurfaced when Buchanan scored the Rams’ third try just on half-time, and again in the second half, when the Knights were in possession close to the Dewsbury line.
He earned ten minutes in the sin-bin for his first transgression, meaning his team had to fight on a man down in the searing heat, and he denied his side superb attacking position for the second, when they needed to hit back.
The Rams were 22-8 ahead at that stage.
Their first two tries had come from ex-Knights centre Chris Spurr, who twisted to touch down after blasting in from close range, and Liam Finn, who skipped a handslap tackle to go under the sticks, Patch Walker goaling both.
Earlier, former Knight Rob Spicer – who excelled in the Dewsbury pack – had twice been held up over the try-line, while another ex-Knight, Buchanan, was only denied by a forward pass.
Buchanan got his try on half-time, diving into the corner, and, six minutes after the interval, with York a man down, superb play saw Andrew Bostock score.
Walker converted and then made it 24-6 with a penalty after Sullivan had been harshly punished for holding down.
The Rams had made just one change to the starting 13 that had defeated York 28-2 at Tetley’s Stadium, with Adam Robinson in for Taron Wildey at prop, while ex-Knight Gareth Greenwood, a substitute last time, was not involved.
And they used the same tactic of predominantly forceful rugby around the ruck, littered with bits of invention, that wore down the Knights the last time the sides met.
York did have half-chances, Haberecht being tackled into touch over the try-line, but the visitors’ defence was domineering, at least until breached in the final quarter.
York deserve credit for not falling away, while Ratcliffe certainly deserved his try for the countless times he sprinted up in support only for the off-load not to materialise.
However, no more points followed his try-of-the-match, as York threw caution to the wind without joy while Dewsbury missed two drop-goal attempts.
Knights: Ratcliffe 7, M Mitchell 7, Knight 6, Haberecht 7, Oakes 6, A Mitchell 7, P March 5, Ross 7, Hughes 7, Sullivan 7, Kelly 7, Peacock 6, D March 6.
Subs (all used): Hodgson 6, Applegarth 7, Barrow 7, Woodcock 6.
Tries: Sullivan 10; Haberecht 62; Ratcliffe 69.
Conversions: A Mitchell 10, 69.
Penalties: A Mitchell 34.
Drop goals: None.
Sin-binned: P March 40.
Dewsbury: Lingard, Powell, Spurr, Epati, Buchanan, P Walker, Finn, Hirst, Emmett, Robinson, Spicer, Bostock, Hayes.
Subs (all used): Bretherton, Smith, Crawley, Grice.
Tries: Spurr 15; Finn 17; Buchanan 40; Bostock 46.
Conversions: P Walker 15, 17, 46.
Penalties: P Walker 59.
Drop goals: None.
Man of the match: Tom Haberecht – always did well when he was in the game, scoring one try and setting up another to boot.
Referee: Craig Halloran (Dewsbury). Rating: To choose a referee from the Dewsbury society to officiate a Rams match was asking for trouble, but he gave a decent display with few areas of contention.
Penalty count: 10-6.
Weather: stiflingly hot, in the mid-20s.
Gamebreaker: Paul March gave away a penalty for backchat on 55 minutes in possession close to the Dewsbury line. The Knights did later fight back from three scores down, but a score then might have given them greater opportunity.
Moment of the match: Danny Ratcliffe’s 69th-minute try, streaking to the posts after Tom Haberecht had galloped through the Dewsbury defence.
Match rating: Decent game, but Dewsbury always seemed to be the better side and likely victors.