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York City Knights 34, St Helens 30 - pre-season friendly
ALEX BENSON marked his appointment as captain with a rare try as York City Knights held on to beat St Helens under-20s 34-30 for their first win of pre-season following the two losses to Castleford.
The 25-year-old prop scored the third try of a five-minute first-half salvo, which, allied to a two-try burst from centre Duane Straugheir at the start of the second period, paved the way for victory, despite a late Saints comeback which had Dave Woods’ men holding on at the end.
Benson was announced as skipper on Friday night, and his all-round performance – one of solidity and strength – suggested he could prove to be a grand choice, especially when that is allied to his off-the-field professionalism.
He and another of the usual suspects, hooker Jack Lee, were stand-out players for the Knights in centre-field as they built their match-winning lead.
There was also a decent show in the second row from Jordan Rice, the reserves player of the year who might just make a name for himself this term as he pushes more established personnel for a first-team berth.
Of the newcomers, Dave Sutton impressed against his former club, albeit without much chance to show his pace in attack, while the one to catch the eye most was probably nippy scrum-half Jonny Presley, who is being given a different job than he is used to at old club Keighley – in a supporting role as opposed to setting up plays – but indicated he might be getting used to it, as he scored a try and was much more prominent with the ball than in his previous outing.
Full-back James Haynes also stood out, not least with a couple of try-saving tackles – the second forced Scott Hale to make a double movement which saw the touchdown disallowed, while the first had come early on to deny the dangerous Tommy Makinson.
That preceded York’s three-try salvo, which began as a fine offload from Lee saw former Leeds junior Tom Bush show decent pace to race home untouched from hear halfway.
On the next set, good passing ended with Haynes blasting through and Presley darting up in support to sprint in. Then came Benson’s try, as he brushed off big Samir Tahrouai to cross. Chris Thorman added all three conversions.
Saints fought back, helped initially by a decision from young York referee Gareth Evans, who dubiously deemed Benson to have offloaded the ball after a tackle had been complete. Evans otherwise had a fine game as he too looks to progress his career.
Lee Waterman, again getting a run at loose-forward as Woods considers a new role for Championship One’s top points-scorer, had an up-and-down introduction off the bench. He won a penalty but failed to find touch with the kick and that, along with a penalty the other way, set field position for Saints to finally get on the scoreboard, Carl Forster crossing from close range.
York’s Matt Barron had an effort ruled out for a knock-on, before the visitors scored a typical Saints try, keeping the ball alive after a fine break from Makinson, for winger Daniel Brotherton to score.
Ex-Featherstone centre Straugheir showed his wares with his quick brace immediately after the interval, his second try being the best of the day, involving Waterman and a fine interchange with his winger, Wilson. Thorman goaled one from out wide but hit an upright with the other.
The Knights again looked good but again dropped off, probably affected by the plethora of interchanges which is now the norm in friendlies.
A good pass from impressive St Helens half-back Ben Karalius saw the even more impressive Makinson slalom home, while Jordan Hand and Forster were also held up over the try-line.
At the other end, Jack Stearman was likewise held up, but Lee scored a typical hooker’s try from dummy-half, Waterman goaling.
At 34-18, it looked game over but, after Straugheir superbly denied Makinson a second try in the left corner, a spell of pressure on the York line ended with Hale scoring.
Then a superb break from Karalius saw Joe Greenwood cross, Makinson completing a 100 per cent record with the boot.
Handling errors increased the late pressure on the hosts, but Woods will have been pleased with the character that helped the York line hold firm at the death.
Knights: Haynes, Sutton, Straugheir, Bush, Wilson, Thorman, Presley, Stearman, Lee, Benson, Rice, Barron, Barlow.
Subs (all used): Waterman, Tuffour, Smith, Stamp, Garside, Hemmings, Mortimer.
St Helens: Johnson, Barber, J Jones, Makinson, Brotherton, Ashe, Karalius, Tahrouai, Hughes, Forster, Hale, D Jones, Thompson.
Subs (all used): Lloyd, Walker, Yates, Case, Hand, Greenwood, Bate.
Referee: Gareth Evans (York).
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