NO more than four points separated the sides in all five previous matches between York City Knights and North Wales. The Knights had won only one of them too.

But there was no such closeness at Queensway as James Ford’s high-riding troops ground down their hosts, picked off points when it mattered and racked up a 31-4 victory – the Crusaders getting their sole consolation seven minutes from time.

The platform for victory was laid in the first half of a mature performance.

Just like in the second half of the win over Workington last week, the Knights starved their opponents of attacking ball and, while the Crusaders’ defence was initially hard to break down, it ultimately relented as the visitors patiently turned the screw.

The result kept York on the coattails of Betfred League One leaders Bradford Bulls.

Ford was able to call on Hull KR backs Will Dagger and Will Oakes again and they were joined on dual-reg by Josh Johnson and fit-again Jordan Walne.

Johnson and Walne were straight swaps in the pack for injured duo Colton Roche and Mike Kelly. Oakes, on the wing, was immense, regularly making metres on the inside and helping his forwards.

A third change from the side that beat Workington saw Harry Carter make his long-awaited return from injury, in place of Will Jubb.

Crusaders were boosted by the recent signings of centre Earl Hurst on loan from Rochdale, and Samir Fahraoui, the strapping prop who had a non-playing spell on loan at York last year. They were two of five changes to the side that lost to Bradford, but none was able to effect the game greatly.

Ford had praised his side’s patience in their win over Workington and they had to show plenty here before taking the lead.

Joe Batchelor was held up at the try-line in York’s first attack and, after Sam Scott was denied a touchdown by good defence, Batchelor had one ruled out for knocking the ball forward.

Crusaders had twice coughed up possession in their own half in that time and they gave York another chance when Ben Cockayne was taken out as he chased his own kick-and-go.

But their stoic, structured defence was up to the task, as it was again when Scott rampaged again from Cockayne’s short ball, and again when York spread the play left, Hey tackled inches short.

A little Connor Robinson kicked forced a dropout as the pressure continued, before the deadlock was finally broken 16 minutes in.

Another attack down the right saw Cockayne feed Batchelor again and the centre this time had the chance to put Ash Robson into the corner.

The bulk of the match continued to be played in home territory but Johnson was penalised for an incorrect play-the-ball near the sticks, then a Cockayne kick flew out on the full – the Crusaders finally getting an attacking set, 26 minutes in.

They won a dropout but when they expanded on the repeat set, pressure forced an error.

Carter’s first act of note after his introduction was to win a penalty, and another followed as Connor Robinson was taken high. The scrum-half dusted himself off and booted the two easy points.

He then provided the moment of the match to create the second try on 35 minutes, just as the Knights began toiling to score.

York ran the last tackle and, when it appeared to have broken down, Robinson, in scooping up a loose ball, fired a blind but inch-perfect pass between his legs to the left hand side where the Knights had a man over. Winger Oakes duly touched down.

Robinson topped off that audaciousness by kicking the touchline conversion.

League One’s top points-scorer then completed the full set with the boot bang on half-time when he wisely knocked over a drop-goal to put his side three scores up.

Crusaders had been starved of attacking ball in that half and they didn’t get much on the resumption either.

They appeared poised to have a full set in the red zone when Robson dropped a high kick but York - and the winger’s blushes - were spared as Crusaders were deemed offside.

Batchelor had another try ruled out – correctly – for obstruction as the home defence continued to frustrate.

But it had to give way at some point and it did so on 55 minutes after Robinson’s decision to pass up a penalty at goal paid off.

Andy Ellis was held up over the whitewash but Cockayne got over with a show and go, Robinson goaling.

At the other end, North Wales, now chasing the game having been unable to create any pressure, coughed up possession on a rare foray.

It was then game over just after the hour mark, after home winger Knox fumbled a Robinson kick to hand the visitors another attacking set. Dan Hawksworth smartly collected an offload, spun over and got the ball down.

Four minutes later, hooker Ellis scored a fine solo try from 20 metres, Robinson converting both.

North Wales battled on, won a dropout and notched their consolation late on.

It came down York’s right wing, after Robson had left the field injured. Joe Lyons kicked high to that corner and Dale Bloomfield leapt brilliantly to catch and touch down.