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Record-low crowd of 653 struggles to inspire York City Knights in flat display against free-falling Workington Town
IF anything, York City Knights’ 46-20 win over Workington showed they are much better when playing at pace.
When they did that, Town couldn’t live with them. When they didn’t, the game was flat, even against a side on a club record 12-match losing streak.
James Ratcliffe’s man had ready-made excuses for any lack of synchronisation in that they fielded four debutants.
Gareth Moore, 20, was used initially as a substitute hooker – Tom Hodgson was left out due to migraines which are to be checked out by doctors – but played the second half at scrum-half and showed glimpses of his attacking talent, not least with a try from a chip over the defence.
Lee Waterman started at full-back before being shipped out to the wing in the half-time reshuffle and he too scored a try, while young Tom Lineham made his bow on the wing before being withdrawn at half-time, and Richard Blakeway made a cameo appearance as a substiture forward.
All four will need time to settle.
The lack of urgency can also be attributed to a certain self-assurance – York were bound to win – while, whenever the game was flat, they weren’t helped by a record low crowd of 653, just one match after 3,107 showed up for the televised win over Oldham.
Nevertheless, whenever they needed to spark, they did, with two early tries setting them on the victory path.
A good off-load from David March and smart play from Adam Mitchell gave centre Tom Haberecht a good chance he was never going to miss. Stand-off Mitchell curled his conversion home for the first of his seven goals.
It was the other main play-makers who increased the lead. Loose-forward March stepped inside his man and, when tackled at the try-line, popped out a perfect pass for supporter supreme Danny Ratcliffe.
The 22-year-old, back from his internal suspension, had started at scrum-half, boss James Ratcliffe using his nephew, rather than Moore, in departed player-coach Paul March’s old position to help set the early pattern.
David March, Rob Kelly and Paul Hughes were also back from suspensions, while other changes to the team beaten by Blackpool last time out were enforced.
John Oakes (leg infection) missed out on a 50th consecutive appearance since joining from Dewsbury, while Hodgson, Mike Mitchell (ankle), Danny Grimshaw (groin), Jordan Ross (ankle), Tom Stancliffe, Chris Williams and Carl Barrow all made way, Barrow being particularly unlucky to miss out after a hard-working show at Blackpool and a good display for the reserves on Thursday.
Workington, whose losing run has heralded today’s departure of boss Dave Rotheram, showed ten changes to the side beaten 36-6 by York at home earlier in the season.
They did not give in, though, and benefited from Lineham’s naivety to hit back.
The former rugby union starlet, who at 17 became the youngest player ever to don the Knights’ first-team shirt, looked the part on the wing – he’s got size, power and pace for his age – but was at fault for the try.
He collected a kick a metre from the touchline but, rather than accept being tackled into touch 25 metres from his try-line, he threw back a risky pass, the ball being scooped up by Town stand-off Chris Frodsham, who sent Jack Pedly home. Frodsham converted.
Waterman’s first act, meanwhile, had been to boot the kick-off out on the full – only by inches – to give Town a penalty and possession in home territory, but he was solid thereafter, driving the ball back with gusto.
His side got back on track five minutes before half-time with Ratcliffe’s second try.
Good work by Paul Hughes preceded a fine break by sub Sean Hesketh and he had the half-back on his shoulder.
The lead should have been more before half-time.
Town forward Craig Farrimond dropped the ball close to the York line and Moore, with his first touch, began racing to the opposite end, only to be called back by referee Greg Dolan, who prematurely blew for the scrum.
Mitchell then missed a kickable penalty after Town, and York missed another chance two minutes into the second half as Hughes’ fired pass was not taken neck high by Hesketh with the line beckoning.
Hesketh otherwise had a fine impact, capped by an eye-opening try.
Town made York pay for the misses as Jarrad Stack drove close to the line and Darren King dummied left and touched down as the marker defence slept. Frodsham converted. But York quickly reasserted dominance as they picked up the pace to score three tries in five minutes.
Steve Lewis made great ground from a 20-metre restart and sub Clough broke through, not needing support as he sprinted diagonally to the flag.
If that try was good, then fellow forward Hesketh topped it.
He broke the line on half-way, then broke another tackle, then another, then showed surprising pace to hold off the chasers.
Immediately came the best team try of the day. Clayton finished it excellently having appeared to be halted, following a super surge involving Haberecht, Clough and latterly Mitchell from well inside their own half.
Town should have scored again when Pedly’s kick was knocked into Frodsham’s path at the try-line but the half-back lost the ball.
And they were made to pay as Moore chipped the ball over the defensive line, with Ratcliffe juggling it back into his path for his debut try.
Jason Mossop scored for Town on the back of a dubious penalty for ball stealing and winger Robert Scott added their fourth try from a kick late on, but in between times Waterman got a debut try, too, finishing smartly after Ratcliffe had shifted the ball on from a Mitchell offload.
Knights: Waterman 7, Lewis 7, Haberecht 6, Clayton 6, Lineham 6, A Mitchell 8, Ratcliffe 7, Applegarth 7, Hughes 7, Sullivan 7, Kelly 6, Knight 6, March 7. Subs (all used): Moore 7, Clough 8, Blakeway 6, Hesketh 8.
Tries: Haberecht 6; Ratcliffe 10, 35; Clough 52; Hesketh 54; Clayton 57; Moore; 68; Waterman 75.
Conversions: A Mitchell 6, 10, 35, 54, 57, 68, 75.
Workington: Wilson, Johnson, Beattie, Mossop, Scott, Frodsham, Burgess, Stack, King, Coward Whitehead, Coupar, Farrimond. Subs (all used): Pedly, Robinson, Ramsden, Dobson.
Tries: Pedly 22; King 44; Mossop 71; Scott 78.
Conversions: Frodsham 22, 44.
Man of the match: Adam Mitchell – the stand-off assumed the mantle of chief organiser in the absence of departed player-boss Paul March and, having tried in vain to rally the troops in the defeat at Blackpool a fortnight ago, he again took that additional responsibility to heart.
Referee: Greg Dolan (Batley).
Rating: considerable room for improvement.
Penalty count: 9-7.
Weather: changeable, with a mini thunder storm in the first half before the sun briefly came out, before a downpour at the end.
Gamebreaker: the devastating spell of three tries in five minutes before the hour mark took York 34-12 ahead just when it looked like Town were getting into the game at 18-12.
Moment of the match: the individual try by Sean Hesketh from inside his own half, breaking tackles like they were eggs and showing surprising pace for a forward.
Match rating: not the best, but came to life whenever Knights upped the tempo.