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Match report: Halifax 76, York City Knights 38
IF York City Knights had thought Halifax would be hurting from their agonising Northern Rail Cup final loss last Sunday, or left in limbo by the shock departure of boss Matt Calland on Friday, then they should have slapped themselves and thought again.
Then again, on yesterday’s evidence, they would probably have missed, as slapstick defending all round reaped 20 tries – on average one every four minutes – and a 76-38 scoreline.
The Knights got exactly the start boss Dave Woods had been calling for, charging out of the blocks and into a ten-point lead.
However, any hopes of hitting Halifax while they were down were quickly wiped away as the men from The Shay showed what made them champions last year by blasting back faster and harder to leave Woods’ outfit smarting at the club’s joint heaviest-ever concession of points, equalling the number they shipped in at Widnes earlier this term.
More importantly, they remain very much in demotion danger.
The Knights had been relieved to see relegation rivals Hunslet lose in the last minute at Barrow on Saturday, but they needed at least a bonus point to maintain a three-point buffer zone – and a defence more porous than a fishing net with a hole in it left them nowhere near achieving it.
The word from Halifax was that Calland’s contract was not going to be renewed in November so he went early.
Former Great Britain boss Brian Noble, who had joined the club mid-season as coaching consultant, was also absent due to BBC commitments, while on the pitch Fax were missing key playmaker Ben Black and Jon Goddard.
This saw young hope Anthony Bowman partner Danny Jones at half-back and a certain Ryan Clayton come onto the bench.
Jones, who used to form a dangerous pairing at Keighley with York’s Jonny Presley, enjoyed their personal reunion by far the more, missing one conversion but still finishing with 12 – two short of a club record.
Clayton, meanwhile, had reneged on an agreement to join York in the winter after getting a better offer from Halifax just hours before he was due to put pen to paper. On this showing, he’d be glad he did.
The Knights fielded the same starting 13 as against Toulouse, Woods giving players a chance to atone for that disappointment – and their good start suggested they might do just that.
A neat kick by Presley and great chase by Matt Garside caused home full-back Miles Greenwood to knock the ball into touch, and, from the ten-metre scrum, fine hands down the right saw Dennis Tuffour finish.
Then, after Jones lost the ball cheaply on half-way, Anthony Thackeray broke through and Duane Straugheir was in under the sticks.
It should have got better as Garside, fending tacklers off, had a try disallowed, a touch judge deeming he had bounced the ball when reaching for the line.
Instead, though, it got worse. Much worse.
The shenanigans of the last seven days had fans wondering what state the hosts – with former York RL favourite Damian Ball taking temporary reins – would be in. The answer was emphatic.
Immediately, after a great offload by Bowman, Stephen Bannister replied.
The same touch judge then stood back as if to rule out a Paul Smith try but, after a quick chat with referee Chris Leatherbarrow, the touchdown stood. Bush – whose efforts all day went to waste – had seemingly held Smith up. A smart Thackeray kick saw Garside speed through to score, but York’s lead, again, was not going to last long.
Jacob Fairbank got a try on the back of a penalty and, after Knights substitute Brett Waller lost the ball on half-way with his first touch, a superb pass by Sean Penkywicz had Rhys Clarke clutching at thin air as Makali Aizue scored.
Waller, as expected, had replaced departed loan man Jack Aldous as substitute prop, and Steve Lewis was also on the bench in place of crocked youngster Ed Smith. Barring Lewis’ two-try second-half salvo, the subs brought little to the party.
The hosts’ next attack saw Penkywicz – a runaway star man – go himself to score, and pacy winger Rob Worrincy capped Fax’s fine first half with an 80-metre effort from a 20-metre restart through dozing defence.
The try-scoring at times resembled basketball in the second half.
York paid for a Ryan Esders fumble as a smart blind-side move from the scrum saw Penkywicz set up Paul White, before Lewis’ brace down the inside left gave them a glimmer of hope of a bonus point. Presley and Thackeray had been the respective creators.
That hope remained when, after Bush made great ground from his in-goal area, James Ford took it on and Thackeray, displaying fine football skills, kicked on twice to touch down.
However, before then, more brilliance by Penkywicz had seen Clayton score and, after it, both White and Dylan Nash bagged doubles, the former completing his hat-trick.
Penkywicz also got a deserved second try – and such hapless York defending meant Ford’s try at the death, plus Bush’s fifth goal, provided negligible consolation.
Halifax: Greenwood, White, Haley, Nash, Worrincy, D Jones, Bowman, Gannon, Beswick, Cherryholme, P Smith, Bannister, Fairbank.
Subs (all used): Aizue, Penkywicz, Barlow, Clayton.
Tries: Bannister 14; P Smith 17; Fairbank 26; Aizue 32; Penkywicz 34, 78; Worrincy 40; White 45, 61, 75; Clayton 55; Nash 68, 72.
Conversions: Jones 14, 17, 26, 32, 34, 40, 45, 55, 61, 68, 72, 78.
Drop goals: None.
Sent off: None.
Knights: Bush 7, Sutton 5, Ford 5, Esders 4, Tuffour 5, Thackeray 6, Presley 6, Freer 7, Lee 6, Benson 7, Straugheir 5, Garside 6, Clarke 5.
Subs (all used): Haynes 5, Waller 4, B Jones 5, Lewis 5.
Tries: Tuffour 5; Straugheir 9; Garside 22; Lewis 49, 52; Thackeray 59; Ford 80.
Conversions: Bush 9, 49, 52, 59, 80.
Drop goals: None.
Sent off: None.
Man of the match: Tom Bush – one of the few players who didn’t deserve to be on the end of such a hiding.
Referee: Chris Leatherbarrow (St Helens) – not bad, probably.
Penalty count: 6-3.
Weather: summer’s back.
Moment of the match: there should be one amid the 38 points scored, but it was overshadowed by the points conceded.
Gaffe of the match: the defending throughout.
Gamebreaker: there was a glimmer of hope of a bonus point until Dylan Nash got on the scoresheet with 12 minutes left.
Match rating: 20 tries and 114 points in a match makes it a bit of a farce.
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