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Match report: Swinton Lions 32, York City Knights 12
YORK City Knights’ search for a Championship win goes on after a dominant second-half show could not make up for another error-strewn first-half performance.
The Knights’ last trip to Leigh Sporting Village a month ago was not dissimilar, first-half mistakes aplenty being punished by the hosts, Leigh Centurions, en route to a 36-6 win.
This time, Swinton, the nomadic outfit who are loaning this splendid venue this season, did likewise en route to a 32-12 win, only this time the Premier Sports television cameras were there to capture it all.
TV coverage, plus a noon kick-off to avoid a clash with yesterday’s big Premier League matches, made for a sparse crowd, the kind of attendance that might leave Premier Sports reconsidering their deal.
The York faithful that did make the morning trip were cheered early on, not least by a superb first stint by new Press Player of the Month Adam Sullivan, but his departure for a well-earned rest coincided with the Lions getting on top.
By then, though, they were already 8-4 up.
Of course, the Knights are not doing things easy these days and luck was against them even before kick-off as Nathan Freer pulled up in the warm-up. Jack Aldous started at prop, with 18th man Dave Sutton coming onto the bench.
A combination of cover from Chris Thorman, a bad bounce and Jordan Tansey’s tackle on Adam Higson denied Swinton on their first proper attack.
But two penalties – a high tackle by Thorman and messing at the play-the-ball by captain James Ford – set the position for another raid and this time Higson could not be stopped.
Then, Matt Garside, looking increasingly low on confidence, took his eye off a pass on the first tackle to gift the hosts a full set in the red zone. The Lions’ chance was gone as Sullivan smartly covered an offload, but, from their next attack, Kevin Penny was easily first to a Chaz I’Anson kick.
York got on the board thanks to more great work by Sullivan. He charged down Ian Watson’s kick and, although Swinton’s Martin Aiscough won the race to the ball as it rebounded goalwards, debutant Ben Johnson made sure he was tackled behind his line. Following the dropout, Ford dummied in.
Excellent work by Tansey, Davies and Elliott, twice, then saw the latter get over the line. However, referee George Stokes asked for replay clarification of the try and the decision was a penalty for the Lions, for obstruction by Tansey.
York could have been level but instead fell further behind as Thorman’s forward pass from dummy-half gifted the hosts more easy ground and Ainscough finished in the corner.
Thorman’s restart went dead. Then York got a penalty in front of the posts. But they ignored the easy two and Paul King of all people lost the ball when trying to score from close range.
Soon enough, great work by Ainscough set up a try for Tom Armstrong, a one-time target of former Knights boss Dave Woods, Gavin Dodd goaling.
Just before half-time, more York mistakes gave Swinton another platform, but Elliott picked off a pass and sprinted 85 metres to the other end.
That lifted the visitors’ spirits but the Lions extended their lead five minutes into the second half as a short-side play – obvious from the stands but too confusing for the defence – gave the excellent Higson a second try. Dodd goaled.
York’s heads did not drop, and they forged their longest spell of pressure.
Problems in breaking down defences resurfaced, though, as they were unable to get over the line from three consecutive sets in the danger zone, and when they did, after Tansey’s long pass to Ford, the skipper’s scoring pass to Elliott was called forward.
Then Johnson, the new scrum-half on dual-reg from Castleford, jinked in but was pulled back for an unwitting knock-on by sub second-row Sutton.
At last York’s dominance garnered rewards. Thorman’s long pass to Ford created space and this time Ford correctly fed Elliott.
Optimists hoped a comeback was on. However, Swinton twice crossed from counter-attacks and, although both touchdowns – by Glenn Riley’s and Ainscough – were ruled out by video referee Ian Smith, the hosts had regained a foothold in proceedings and a Dodd penalty, given away by Thorman, took them 14 points ahead, leaving York out of bonus point range.
The Knights’ ongoing bad luck was summed up late on as Johnson – who at times looked like the typical new-boy at school but whose contribution overall looked promising – jinked through only to lose his footing on his final turn and lose the ball as he stretched out to the line.
And salt was rubbed into wounds as desperation from a scrum saw the ball go loose to give Ainscough an easy run-in on the hooter, Dodd converting.
Swinton: R Hawkyard, Dodd, Higson, Armstrong, Penny, Ainscough, Watson, Mills, M Smith, Meekin, Cunniffe, D Hawkyard, I’Anson.
Subs (all used): Morrison, Walker, Riley, Ashall.
Tries: Higson 8, 45; Penny 13; Ainscough 27, 80; Armstrong 32.
Conversions: Dodd 32, 45, 80.
Penalties: Dodd 75.
Sent off: None.
Knights: Tansey 6, Bush 6, Ford 6, Garside 5, Elliott 7, Thorman 5, Johnson 6, Sullivan 8, Lee 6, Aldous 6, Houston 6, Davies 7, King 7.
Subs (all used): Turner 6, Clarke 6, Sutton 6, Hemmings 6.
Tries: Ford 17; Elliott 40, 62.
Sent off: None.
Man of the match: Adam Sullivan – the big prop stood out in the first half as the Knights were otherwise again too mistake-ridden.
Referee: George Stokes (St Helens) – okay.
Weather: perfect conditions for rugby league.
Moment of the match: George Elliott’s 85-metre interception try.
Gaffe of the match: Again there were too many errors, forced and unforced, for one to stand out alone.
Match-breaker: If York could have maintained their third quarter dominance in the fourth quarter, a comeback could have been afoot, but it was Swinton who forged more of the chances thereafter, if only on the counter-attack, and the vital next score came from Gavin Dodd’s boot for the hosts.
Match rating: Conditions were perfect and, while Swinton were probably the more fluent footballers, both sides would have wanted cleaner performances.