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Match report: York City Knights 12, Sheffield Eagles 50
York City Knights trio, from top, James Houston, Jack Lee and George Elliott team up to bring down a Sheffield Eagles player in their Challenge Cup fourth round exit
Basically, the Eagles showed once again they are a very good Championship side and the Knights, while displaying more heart than in the insipid league loss at Hunslet last week, showed they are some distance below that standard.
The Eagles had proved their stature last week when beating Featherstone 60-40 to avenge last year’s Grand Final loss. That result, combined with Rovers’ shock Cup win over Castleford on Saturday, gives credence to Chris Thorman’s assertion that Mark Aston’s men could feasibly compete in the lower reaches of Super League.
Therefore, defeat to the Eagles is no disgrace, especially when fielding a depleted side.
The problem for Knights player-boss Thorman, though, is the fact yesterday’s 50-12 scoreline did not do enough to atone for the paucity of some recent performances, culminating in that awful defeat at Hunslet.
“Same old same old,” was the general consensus from dejected fans last night.
In many ways, that is correct. The Knights again failed to make the most of field position, they missed chances that more confident or competent sides would have gobbled up, and some encouraging passages were also wasted with downright poor play.
Moreover, their defence was again cut open too much, especially in a second half which optimists among the home faithful had hoped would see the hosts, with a swirling wind generally behind them, narrow the 18-0 interval deficit.
However, York’s performance yesterday was indeed one of greater effort and commitment.
For some of the younger lads, not least Ben Dent, who was making his debut at this level, Joe Hemmings and Kris Brining, it was also another important learning experience.
That the Knights were rolled over in the second half merely showed that at present they cannot live with a top-ranking Championship outfit when the latter lift their pace and intensity – and that should not be a great surprise, especially when prop idol Paul King and playmaker Brett Turner had joined a lengthening injury list and the team were also without their dual-reg contingent.
Davey Burns, another local lad who was expected to be given a chance, also pulled out with injury, while captain James Ford, playing in the number six shirt but more as a running-back rather than a typical stand-off, also exited the fray with injury.
Conditions weren’t easy, either, with both sides making handling errors in the wind.
That York began the second half with even a glimmer of hope having been hitherto against the wind probably justifies some credit.
Dom Brambani, flying up in support, had scored the Eagles’ first try – plus the first of his seven conversions – following a break by Quentin Laula-Togagae. Nev Morrison, on the back of two penalties, got the second, and, after Thorman’s attempted short restart backfired by not going the ten metres, Sheffield forced another repeat set and Andy Henderson drove over for the third.
Laula-Togagae and Scott Turner also had tries at either end of the half ruled out, respectively for a double movement and a foot in touch caused by Matt Garside’s last-ditch tackle.
York had come closest when a Jordan Tansey kick bounced back and Ford gathered it only to be superbly tackled inches short, Nathan Freer likewise being halted from Ford’s offload.
Tansey tried hard to get involved in attack throughout the game, although his cover defence at full-back was frail, as highlighted by a weak attempted tackle early in the second half, when Morrison sprinted down the touchline for his second try.
The restart was spilled by Brambani but the fact Garside put down Thorman’s pass on the first tackle summed up York’s current plight.
The whistle also denied Ford when he was about to score as referee Ronnie Laughton deemed Dave Sutton’s offload to be forward.
Young Dent then had two quick lessons in defending testing cross-field kicks as he challenged for the first, spilled it and gave Menzie Yere an easy finish, and attacked the second but missed it and gave Turner a try. Maybe next time he will allow his man to catch it and then effect a tackle.
York finally got on the board as a Brambani pass was picked off by George Elliott for a 60-metre interception try.
Enterprising play also saw Hemmings go close, while Garside had a try ruled out for a brilliant – but forward – knock-back by Dent following a Thorman kick.
Alex Szostak’s try at the other end duly killed the contest.
Laula-Togagae finished two fine scores, albeit through poor defence, before York’s best moment came at the end as, from Tansey’s kick, Dent superbly threw the ball back from an impossible position to give Sutton a simple finish.
Knights: Tansey 6, Bush 5, Elliott 6, Garside 6, Dent 6, Ford 7, Thorman 5, Sullivan 7, Brining 6, Freer 7, Hemmings 6, Houston 5, Clarke 5.
Subs (all used): Lee 6, Benson 7, Sutton 7, Aldous 5.
Tries: Elliott 59; Sutton 79.
Conversions: Thorman 59, 79.
Sheffield: Laula-Togagae, S Turner, Yere, Talapapa, Morrison, McDonald, Brambani, Howieson, Henderson, Higgins, Szostak, Green, Hirst.
Subs (all used): Knowles, Hepworth, Rowe, Stringer.
Tries: Brambani 14; Morrison 24, 43; Henderson 28; Yere 50; Turner 57; Szostak 67; Laula-Togagae 69, 75.
Conversions: Brambani 14, 24, 28, 43, 67, 69, 75.
Man of the match: Adam Sullivan – another tough and consistent display up front.
Referee: Ronnie Laughton (Barnsley) – okay-ish, aided by some decent assistance from his touch judges.
Weather: cold and windy, with a brief shower.
Moment of the match: it would have been a superb try by a little Heworth Under-9s player during the half-time entertainment, until, in the last minute of the main match, Ben Dent somehow threw the ball back from an impossible position to give Dave Sutton an easy finish.
Gaffe of the match: not a gaffe as such but winger Dent showed his inexperience when trying to attack a brilliant, curling cross-field kick by Dom Brambani, only to get caught under the ball and give Scott Turner a relatively simple chance.
Gamebreaker: the way Sheffield began the second half – far quicker and with greater intensity.
Match rating: Sheffield are a very good Championship side and York, at present, are not.
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