A VALIANT York City Knights pushed Super League giants Wigan Warriors all the way but were eventually beaten 26-0 in the Betfred Challenge Cup.

York were largely depleted in numbers, having been without 12 players, but it did not show in an exceptional performance that was full of passion and effort.

Given the lengthy injury list and the world-class calibre of opposition, this was always going to be a big ask for the Knights.

But if they can replicate this determination and discipline in weeks to come, with some quality players back fit, they will cause plenty of problems to teams in the Betfred Championship.

James Ford’s side saw seven changes from the side that faced Toulouse Olympique last week. With no recognisable half-backs fit, Danny Washbrook moved into the halves alongside Matty Marsh while Sam Scott made his first appearance of the year.

And, as expected, two local 17-year-olds Myles Harrison and AJ Towse - signed on permanent deals earlier in the day after previously featuring on community dual registration from Heworth ARLFC - came in for their debuts. The former started at full-back with the latter on the bench.

Despite being written off by the bookmakers and the experts in the build-up, it was York who were on top in the first ten minutes.

Wigan came up with four errors early on but their defence proved a tough nut to crack, withstanding several sets, the most promising of which saw Tyme Dow-Nikau pushed into touch.

Immediately afterwards Wigan almost struck with their first attacking set on 15 minutes when Morgan Smithies drove for the line on the last, only for the referee to adjudge a double movement.

Midway through the half, the Warriors made the breakthrough that York had worked so hard to prevent up until that point.

Wigan spread the ball to the right and Zak Hardaker was dive in at the corner unchallenged.

If there were any thoughts of that try allowing the floodgates to then opener, then they were quickly rubbished as York again had a period of sustained pressure.

A Marsh grubber forced a goal-line drop-out but once more the Wigan defence held firm, with York finishing the set through another Marsh short-kick which the visitors easily fielded.

With nine minutes of the half to go, a mix-up in the Knights defence cheaply allowed Wigan to extend their lead.

Jackson Hastings’ bomb was taken by Samuel Halsall despite three York players surrounding him and Wigan showed some quick thinking to shift it right for Harry Smith to touch down.

Wigan notched another try soon after on the back of their first penalty. Some slick hands saw Halsall get through a gap on the left and, at the time of asking, Hardaker converted.

The away side looked threatening as the half draw to a close but York held out to trail 0-14 at the break.

As with the first period, it was York who were quickest out of the blocks as the game restarted.

The pressure was being created by the Knights but they remained unable to turn it into points.

Marsh was the source of Wigan’s frustrations with his spiralling bomb being dropped by Umyla Hanley and his subsequent cross-field kick forcing another drop-out.

But, in the end, it came to nothing, with Kieran Dixon pushed into touch as York went the edges.

As the best sides do, York were quickly punished when Hastings surged through a hole in the York line and fed Hanley to dive over in the corner.

A cracker of a kick from Hardaker put Wigan 20 points in front.

York’s defence and effort remained admirable in the face of the Wigan pressure but there was only so long they could hold out for when conceding a penalty and a six-again.

The size of Tony Clubb was too strong as he spun over the line next to the sticks, allowing Hardaker another easy two points.

As the game entered its final dozen minutes, the physical pressure of facing the Super League League Leaders’ Shield holders seemed to begin to tell.

Tim Spears worryingly limped off with what looked like a knee complaint while Harrison moved to the wing after hobbling for a short period.

To their credit, that didn’t deter York, who forced back-to-back penalties in the Wigan 20m but, as had become custom to the game, Wigan’s defence just would not relent.

York’s backline was also tight, even in the final moments, with debutant Towse doing enough to prevent Hanley scoring in the corner.

York: Harrison, Whiteley, Dow-Nikau, Salter, K Dixon, Marsh, Washbrook, Green, Jubb, Cuthbertson, Porter, Scott, Spears.

Subs (all used): Barcoe, R Dixon, Stock, Towse.



Wigan: Hardaker, Bibby, Isa, Halsall, Hanley, Smith, Hastings, Bullock, Powell, Singleton, Bateman, Smithies, Partington.

Subs (all used): Byrne, Clubb, Havard, Shorrocks.

Tries: Hardaker (20), Smith (32), Halsall (35), Hanley (51), Clubb (61)

Goals: Hardaker (3/5)

York Star Man: James Green. The big forward got through plenty of minutes given the Knights players missing and was a consistent metre-maker.