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York City Knights 40, Hull Dockers 14 - Challenge Cup round three
YORK City Knights player-boss Chris Thorman had warned of complacency ahead of yesterday’s Challenge Cup third round tie against Hull Dockers – but his players did not take heed.
They eventually came through 40-14 against the brave National Conference outfit but that was a flattering scoreline with victory only sealed by an 11-minute James Ford hat-trick in the final quarter.
Any terrace criticism should be tempered, though, for two reasons.
Firstly, only 346 supporters turned up – a record low in the Knights’ ten-year history and, somewhat worryingly, not much more than the record lows in the final, sorry days of York Wasps.
Absent fans, or those happy to slag off the team, need to look at themselves or around them at empty spaces before being overly critical of anyone else’s efforts.
Secondly, it is not too unusual for semi-professional teams to drop standards when up against amateur opposition in a match they are overwhelming favourites to win.
Most times the higher-ranked team progress without getting out of second gear. York were not the only guilty team this weekend.
It would be of much bigger concern if assistant-coach Mick Ramsden’s faith in the players to lift themselves accordingly for Friday night’s Championship match at Leigh is not justified.
Fans can expect line speed and ‘push’ to be quicker, and enthusiasm and concentration levels higher. They can also expect the referee to clamp down more on lying-on tactics, Gareth Hewer having allowed Dockers to slow down play-the-balls and break up the game’s flow too much.
That said, what must remain of concern to the Knights’ coaching staff is who organises and unlocks doors when Thorman is on the sidelines or off form.
Not only that, but with Thorman resting himself, the goalkicking was inconsistent too, with only half of yesterday’s eight tries converted, three players having shots.
Thorman again went with this new tactic of playing only one out-and-half-back, this time former West Hull amateur Brett Turner taking the player-boss’s on-pitch role. He was busy and nippy enough but might need more help when up against Championship opposition.
Captain Ford wore the stand-off shirt but, like Ben Hellewell last week, played more as a running back, with Jordan Tansey doing likewise from full-back, acting as a half-back when necessary.
Hull Dockers’ defence, though, was not broken too often, until the last 15 minutes when York took advantage of their tiring legs to spread the ball wide.
Thorman had wanted his side to stamp authority on the game from the outset, but their lacklustre attitude was punished five minutes in as they dawdled around a loose ball, perhaps expecting the whistle, and allowed Dockers loose-forward Nick Powley to dart home from 20 metres for his sixth try in three games.
Jack Lee replied, Turner having made ground with a jinking run, while a Jack Aldous offload created space for Tansey to give Tommy Haughey a try. Tom Bush added one goal.
This game, though, was never going to be the record-breaking try-fest of 12 months ago, the Dockers being far stronger opposition than Northumbria University were at this stage last year.
Proof came when they scored a scintillating breakaway try, centre Martin Johnson leaving Dave Sutton in his wake as he streaked 85 metres up the touchline. Jon Eccles had also stolen the ball off York winger Sutton in a one-on-one tackle.
Craig Skelton kicked from the touchline his second conversion and soon added a penalty after more sloppiness from York – Tansey booting a restart straight out for the second time and then seeing his side penalised for offside and then backchat.
Fears of an upset relented as George Elliott equalised, Tansey missing the goal, before Matt Garside won the challenge under a spiralling Tansey bomb to gallop home, with Turner goaling, for a 20-14 interval lead.
That said, it could have been different had Kristian Birch gathered a bobbling kick at the other end with the try-line begging, immediately before Garside’s try.
Home sloppiness continued into the second half as Ed Smith dropped a pass at a 20-metre restart. York, though, did speed things up.
Tansey had a try ruled out, harshly, for a forward pass by Haughey after a smart one-two, while Haughey lost the ball with the try-line begging after more interplay with Tansey.
Ford also would have scored had he gathered a loose ball on half-way, before he did finally break the second-half deadlock as the pressure mounted.
He showed blistering pace over 90 metres to get his second, and his hat-trick try soon followed, Bush adding one goal.
A late try and conversion by Turner, direct from a scrum, was straightforward, but the ease of that score, like the scoreline, belied the game as a whole.
Knights: Tansey 6, Bush 6, Elliott 6, Garside 6, Sutton 5, Ford 7, Turner 6, Sullivan 6, Lee 6, Houston 5, Haughey 5, Smith 5, Aldous 7.
Subs (all used): Gay 6, Benson 6, Hemmings 6, Howard 5.
Tries: Lee 10; Haughey 20; Elliott 37; Garside 40; Ford 63, 69, 74; Turner 78.
Conversions: Bush 10, 69; Turner 40, 78.
Sent off: None.
Hull Dockers: Ulyatt, K Birch, Johnson, Skelton, Tognola, Kay, Smirk, Bradley, Sellers, Bumby, Bowsley, Eccles, Powley.
Subs (all used): Proctor, Everitt, Fletcher, C Birch.
Tries: Powley 5; Johnson 29 Conversions: Skelton 5, 29.
Penalties: Skelton 32.
Sent off: None.
Man of the match: James Ford – deserves it for the hat-trick, including a speedy length-of-the-field effort, that spared any potential blushes for the Knights.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven) – seemed to help out the Dockers a few times with odd calls and slow play-the-balls.
Weather: sun shone on a hard, dusty pitch.
Moment of the match: Martin Johnson’s length-of-the-field try for Dockers to give them the lead on the half-hour mark was thrilling in itself and meant neutrals knew it would be a competitive game.
Gaffe of the match: Jordan Tansey booting a restart out on the full for the second time in the first half to give Dockers another attacking platform.
Gamebreaker: James Ford’s hat-trick finally took York clear in the final quarter.
Match rating: Knights got stuck in second gear until the last ten minutes, but it was enough.
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