YORK City Knights stretched their winning run in Betfred League One to nine games – but this latest victory was based more on defence than swashbuckling attack.

With head coach James Ford watching from the stands as he began his two-match touchline ban, the Knights saw off North Wales Crusaders 30-0 at Bootham Crescent to stay neck and neck with Bradford Bulls at the top of the table.

However, Whitehaven did Ford’s men few favours 24 hours earlier, failing to give Bradford much of a game and falling 40-0, and the fact the Knights struggled to click in attack here allowed the Bulls to extend their points-difference advantage, now to 92 points with six games to go.

Any criticism of a scrappy completion rate should be tempered, however, by the Knights’ work without the ball – hard-hitting, hard-working and hard-headed, and all in a sapping sun, as they kept a clean sheet against a team who are far better than their 10th place suggests.

It looked like a big score was afoot after two Sam Scott tries in a superb error-free first quarter, but North Wales dug in and York’s error rate shot up.

Rarely did the visitors threaten the home lead, though, and two further scores in the third quarter took the game away. The battling Cru had their one try ruled out on the hour before the Knights capped their victory late on.

Ford had retained the same back line as against Coventry last week but made a few changes in the pack with Sam Scott returning to the back row in place of Mike Kelly and Adam Robinson in for Dan Hawksworth as interchange prop.

Player/assistant-coach Graeme Horne failed his late fitness test, though, so Jack Ormondroyd started up top – starting well to get his side on the front foot – and Kelly, having been on standby, went onto the bench.

It meant York were a middle player down so credit the others for their extra work in the heat.

Andy Ellis and Will Jubb were again the hookers, though England Students star Jubb this time started and finished the game. The usually excellent Ellis was below par in between times.

Crusaders were without on-loan centre Earl Hurst, forward Simon Atherton, half-back Ste Roper, and veteran former Super League star Stephen Wild – who came out of retirement a week earlier.

However, former Halifax hooker Karl Ashall made his second appearance after rejoining the club, and in came big Brad Brennan, the one-time York prop.

Former Keighley utility back Lewis Fairhurst was called into the 17, and Widnes loanees Brad Walker, Joe Lyons and Dan Norman all played.

York opened the scoring on six minutes as Ben Cockayne’s little pass found Scott on a lovely angle to the sticks, Connor Robinson adding the first of his five conversions.

More impressive was the Knights’ defensive pressure, keeping the Cru pinned back for most of the first quarter and having to kick for ground from inside their own 30.

From one such kick, the Knights worked back upfield and scored a cracker.

With players lining up on the left, Cockayne attacked the right and, after an interchange of well-crafted passes with Ash Robson, both players bamboozling defenders, the stand-off sent Scott crashing in again.

The lead nearly increased further but Jubb knocked on when trying to dig over, while another great position went begging when Robinson, after a super break, fumbled when tackled five yards short.

Instead, Crusaders – belying their lowly standing - forged a way back into proceedings.

Initially they did so without threatening but that threat grew as the Knights’ standards slipped markedly, cheap turnovers allowing the visitors to begin sets in home territory.

Nevertheless, York’s defensive line held strong.

Brennan had been prominent after coming on but twice he was held up at the whitewash as defenders ganged up on him, and it remained 12-0 at the break.

York should have increased their advantage on the resumption. After a good charge by Adam Robinson, namesake Connor ran the last tackle but Brad Hey passed too early to Judah Mazive and the winger put a toe in touch just before giving a scoring return pass.

Robinson’s next charge ended with a fumble, however, and it looked like the Cru were getting a foothold again.

Up step Cockayne. Just when York needed someone to take proceedings by the scruff of the neck, the former Hull KR favourite decided to go by himself in centre-field.

He was finally hauled down but Ellis was quick to the play-the-ball and Connor Robinson finished the half-chance in the corner.

York still didn’t take command and they needed a decent cover tackle from new full-back Matt Chilton – the deadline day signing from amateurs York Acorn – to bring down Ryan Smith after the tricky half-back had broken through with an extravagant dummy.

But the lead increased nevertheless.

Half-back Robinson forced an error by Tommy Johnson – North Wales’ dangerous full-back was kept in check all day – and Josh Jordan-Roberts, realising it was a free play and nobody was home for the visitors, kicked perfectly towards goal.

Mazive won the race to the touchdown.

The restart bounced dead forcing York to dropout, and, at the end of the following attack, Crusaders thought they had got on the board when Kenny Baker expertly caught and touched down a Smith chip to the corner. However, the centre was ruled offside by a touch judge.

They looked set to cross again after breaking clear down the left but Joe Batchelor stormed back to pull off a try-saver and keep the hosts’ clean sheet intact - the Knights' defensive desire summed up.

Not only that, but York went up the other end to cap their victory with their fifth try – Connor Robinson’s little pass putting Hey home.