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Sheffield Eagles 44, York City Knights 10
A TUMULTUOUS week for York City Knights ended on a low note last night as they crashed 44-10 at Sheffield Eagles.
Just 48 hours after it was announced that player-coach Chris Thorman would be swapping Huntington Stadium for Huddersfield at the end of the current campaign, they returned to losing ways in his season at the helm, suffering their tenth defeat in 11 Championship outings.
They remain in danger of finishing the season bottom of the pile – not something the Geordie would want on his CV ahead of his impending promotion to Super League.
Victory over Swinton last time out, which lifted them above Hunslet, had given the Knights renewed confidence.
But the Eagles have more bite and flight than the Lions and duly picked up their fourth win over Thorman’s men in all competitions this year.
It was a little coincidental that the first game since it was announced Thorman would be hanging up his boots to become an assistant-coach with the Giants was back at the ground where he began his playing career more than a decade ago.
To add to the irony, it was Sheffield’s merger with Huddersfield in 1999 that preceded his long happy spell as a player at the Galpharm Stadium, where he made enough of an impression for the club to note his coaching potential.
He still hasn’t been able to get one over on old mucker and Eagles team-mate Mark Aston, though, as York have now lost all seven games against Aston’s men in Thorman’s time as player, assistant-coach and coach, generally quite heavily.
Thorman had had the opportunity to field an unchanged line-up for the first time this term after Hull allowed dual-reg scrum-half Danny Nicklas to resume his half-back partnership with York’s player-boss.
However, he opted to bring fit-again second-row Ed Smith back on to the bench in place of Tom Bush, an unused sub against Swinton.
Smith duly played against big brother Pat Smith, the Ireland hooker, who was handed a surprise call-up by Aston, replacing Simon Brown at stand-off. Brown’s half-back partnership with Dom Brambani had been misfiring. Smith senior did well.
James Davey, a dual-reg signing from Wakefield, made his Eagles debut as replacement hooker.
The hosts had the strong wind in their faces to start with but it immediately worked in their favour as a kick held up in the breeze, leaving York full-back Jordan Tansey stranded. Sheffield retained possession and Dom Brambani jinked in for a try after two minutes 22 seconds, adding the first of his six conversions.
They nearly scored again after a move started by Pat Smith, but winger Scott Turner could not ground the ball.
York hit back after a brilliant scoot from dummy-half by Jack Lee created a try for James Ford against his former club.
Thorman missed the goal but made amends when denying Nev Morrison a certain try at the other end.
However, Menzie Yere, so often the scourge of York, scored a fine 40-metre solo try on 17 minutes. Rhys Clarke, at right-side second-row and beaten at the outset of Yere’s run, was immediately replaced by Ed Smith.
Sheffield probably edged the remainder of the half but York reduced the deficit to 12-10 on the half-time hooter. Matt Garside was held up after a straight run from a tap penalty, likewise John Davies from the next tackle – though he seemed sure he had scored. But replacement hooker Brett Turner did get over in the same set, Thorman goaling.
Sheffield began the second half even faster than they had the first, Yere bursting in after one minute six seconds from Pat Smith’s lay-off. And this period proved much more one-sided.
A Thorman fumble wasted good position as the ball became like a bar of soap for a short while in the soggy conditions, before a fine move saw Michael Knowles extend the hosts’ lead.
Knowles quickly got his second following a high kick by Brambani, the ball falling to him after Scott Turner had challenged Waine Pryce in the air. The chasers were possibly off-side.
Soon enough, after the unlucky Davies was held up at the whitewash not for the first time, Sheffield full-back Quentin Laula-Togagae picked off a kick and, with nothing but green grass in front of him, sprinted to the opposite end.
The hosts were reduced to 12 men on 64 minutes when Mitch Stringer was sent off for an apparent head butt in a ruck, but the Eagles still extended their lead as Laula-Togagae sped in again.
Yere was also only denied a hat-trick try due to a forward pass.
Thorman had said his announcement would not affect his team adversely but, in a season where there is already no relegation, and now with no-one at the helm building for 2013, they seemed to play the second half as if it mattered little.
To rub salt in the player-coach’s wounds, he was taken off with three minutes to go, after which Yere did complete his hat-trick.
Sheffield: Laulu-Togagae, S Turner, Yere, Taulapapa, Morrison, P Smith, Brambani, Howieson, Henderson, Stringer, Knowles, Green, Hirst.
Subs (all used): Davey, Scott, Szostak, Higgins.
Tries: Brambani 2; Yere 17, 41, 79; Knowles 53, 56, Laula-Togagae 59, 66.
Conversions: Brambani 2, 17, 41, 56, 59, 66.
Sent off: Stringer 64.
Knights: Tansey 5, Pryce 6, Ford 7, Garside 5, Elliott 7, Thorman 5, Nicklas 5, Sullivan 6, Lee 6, Aldous 6, Clarke 5, Davies 7, King 6.
Subs (all used): B Turner 6, E Smith 6, Freer 6, Green 6.
Tries: Ford 12; Turner 40.
Conversions: Thorman 40.
Sent off: None.
Man of the match: John Davies – unlucky not to score in another decent display by the second-row.
Referee: Jamie Leahy (Dewsbury) – okay.
Weather: wet and windy – though it brightened up a tad after the ridiculous downpour on the M1.
Moment of the match: James Ford’s try for York after superb work from dummy-half by Jack Lee.
Gaffe of the match: York’s defensive effort in the second half lacked passion.
Gamebreaker: three tries in six minutes before the hour mark increased Sheffield’s lead from 18-10 to 34-10.
Match rating: York had a sniff at half-time but the game, somehow lacking spark and atmosphere, went away from them.