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Knights 16, Featherstone Rovers 44
York City Knights Matt Garside crosses the whitewash and heads towards touching down closer to the posts
YORK City Knights were much-improved but still came away with nothing as they lost 44-16 to Featherstone Rovers at Huntington Stadium – leaving them in deeper relegation danger.
They might have conceded another stack of points last night to add to the 122 in the last two games, but the passion and desire sadly lacking in those matches could not be questioned this time, only Rovers showed why they are top of the Championship.
The game was very similar to the one at Post Office Road earlier in the season, when York matched Daryl Powell’s title contenders for much of the contest only to tail off in the final quarter as Rovers turned the screw.
It all means Dave Woods’ men could be in the drop zone tonight if Dewsbury get three points from bottom club Toulouse, leaving them with three games – all of them tough – to save their skins.
Hope remains, though, if they battle on.
The Knights’ defence last night was considerably better than that displayed in the hammering at Halifax last time out.
However, Fev, aided upfield by a penalty, took a fifth-minute lead through Ben Cockayne, the recent star signing from Hull KR. Liam Finn goaled from the touchline – his first of six conversions.
Cockayne was supposed to start at centre in a team unchanged from the one that saw off Sheffield last week – Fev’s 14th consecutive win – but he shifted to the wing in a reshuffle caused by the late withdrawal due to illness of in-form winger Bryn Powell, which saw big Andy Bostock start at centre and utility back Greg Worthington come onto the bench.
There were a number of surprises in the line-up, boss Dave Woods ringing the changes after the Halifax debacle.
James Haynes was expected to be ruled out given his mouth injury suffered after that altercation with Ryan Esders in training, but he came in at centre, in place of James Ford, who suffered his own injury woe in training.
Esders himself was never likely to be left out, despite a below-par show at Halifax and that training ground tiff, but he was switched to second-row, where he was joined by Steve Lewis, given Duane Straugheir’s season-ending injury.
Two big surprises, meanwhile, saw Scott Woods thrown in at scrum-half for his Championship debut, Jonny Presley moving on to the bench, and Joe Hemmings also coming in as substitute for his first-team debut.
Woods, the head coach’s son who had a spell on loan at Gateshead earlier this term, was steady if unspectacular, while former New Earswick amateur Hemmings looked anything but out of place when he came on, despite being thrown in against arguably the best team below Super League. He certainly ran the ball in hard.
It seemed the changes to York’s team were working in a defence-dominated first quarter which was in complete contrast to the 20-try farce at Fax.
However, Fev extended their lead in comedic fashion when a York kerfuffle in possession ended with Esders being forced into a panicky kick forward, only the ball was charged down and Jonny Hepworth scored. Esders had chased back but was deceived by the bobble, and claimed he was pushed away from it.
Hemmings came into the fray, bang on at the quarter-mark, and York soon responded, on the back of two penalties.
York then levelled thanks to Dennis Tuffour’s off-the-cuff brilliance. He looked sure to be pushed into touch after foolishly going on the outside but flung a pass inside while diving over the touchline and Matt Garside ran home, Bush goaling again. Tuffour hasn’t played much this season but it was that kind of unpredictability that made him a crowd entertainer last term.
However, the winger’s bad side soon came to the fore as he and full-back Bush cocked-up underneath a high ball, and Tommy Saxton scored for a 16-12 interval lead.
Brett Waller epitomised York’s improvement from the Fax game. The sub prop was as good last night as he was bad that time. Esders was also much better.
Boss Dave Woods was enraged when a fine Esders drop-out bounced on the touchline right in front of him, only for a touch judge to say it had gone out on the full.
The Knights’ defence responded in super style, though, until Ian Hardman finished a fine move that few defences would have dealt with.
Soon, Bostock barged in, on the back of two penalties, and York were out of bonus point territory.
The Knights continued to battle gamely but Featherstone took further command with a Worthington try as York paid for too many penalties, and through Hardman’s second and, then, as the hosts tired, Worthington again.
York got more points through Haynes, set up by Esders, on the hooter but it was mere consolation.
Knights: Bush 7, Sutton 6, Haynes 8, Garside 6, Tuffour 6, Thackeray 7, Woods 6, Freer 7, Lee 7, Benson 7, Lewis 6, Esders 7, Clarke 7.
Subs (all used): Hemmings 8, Presley 6, Jones 6, Waller 7.
Tries: Freer 25; Garside 29; Haynes 80.
Conversions: Bush 25, 29.
Drop goals: None.
Sent off: None.
Featherstone: Hardman, Cockayne, Smeaton, Bostock, Saxton, Hepworth, Finn, Tonks, Kaye, Dickens, Grayshon, Spears, Dale. Subs (all used): Netherton, Worthington, Divorty, Gledhill.
Tries: Cockayne 5; Hepworth 19; Saxton 34; Hardman 55, 67; Bostock 58; Worthington 64, 71.
Conversions: Finn 5, 19, 55, 58, 67, 71.
Drop goals: None.
Sent off: None.
Man of the match: Joe Hemmings – the former New Earswick amateur was thrown in at the deep end for his first-team debut but came up with a fine show that suggests more is to come.
Referee: Matthew Thomason (Warrington) – not bad really, apart from inexplicably missing a late shot in the tackle on Tom Bush, while one touch judge missed far too much.
Penalty count: 7-10.
Weather: very nice evening.
Moment of the match: it was risky but it worked, as Dennis Tuffour went on the outside and, before being shoved into touch, flung a pass inside for Matt Garside to level at 12-12.
Gaffe of the match: Dennis Tuffour failed to take a bomb in a mix-up with Tom Bush and, following the scrum, Tommy Saxton regained Rovers’ lead.
Gamebreaker: Andy Bostock’s try was the second in three minutes for Rovers and took them 16 points clear.
Match rating: a good game with a good atmosphere but again no reward for York.