YORK City Knights were unable to build on a second-half fightback as they were beaten 41-34 by Featherstone Rovers in the final of the 1895 Cup at Wembley Stadium.

York rallied from a 12-point half-time deficit to level the game up early in the second half against the Betfred Championship pace setters.

But Featherstone showcased the class that sees them unbeaten in the league with a burst of three quick-fire tries that put them in pole position.

The Knights battled hard until the finish but the class of their opposition took them to cup glory. Amid some shocking league form, York can take huge positives from this closely-fought encounter.

And perhaps most importantly, this was another marker of just how far York as a club have come over recent years.

As head coach James Ford led his team out at the Wembley turf, thoughts may well have turned to 2015 when he was coaching at amateur grounds in League One rather than 90,000-seater stadiums.

Now, 90 years on from their last appearance here, his now-Championship side went to the brink in a cup final.

In spite of the defeat against deserved winners, this is a huge sign of the strides made by York in the Ford and Jon Flatman era.

Returning to matters on the field, Ford made five changes to the side that were beaten at London Broncos last week, including naming a 10th different half-back pairing of the year.

Mikey Lewis, is his second loan spell at the Knights, returned to the halves alongside Danny Washbrook.

And there were also welcome returns for hooker Kriss Brining and Adam Cuthbertson after injury, with Ben Jones-Bishop and Tyme Dow-Nikau also back in the 17.

Jordan Baldwinson, Corey Johnson, Liam Salter, Ryan Atkins and Riley Dean all dropped out.

Numerous coronavirus cases in the Featherstone squad nearly saw this game called off but the Betfred Championship’s joint-leaders still named a dauntingly strong side.

Junior Moors, Will Dagger and Connor Jones were among the Rovers stars to miss out from last week’s trip to Widnes, though they still fielded stars Craig Hall, Nu Brown and Dane Chisholm.

And it was the class of the latter that put Featherstone on the front foot early on. Chisholm produced a perfect 40/20 kick and a teasing follow-up grubber that Jacob Doyle failed to dive upon.

The ex-NRL ace was not finished there though. After Kieran Dixon - six years on from his horror show in Hull KR’s 50-0 defeat to Leeds Rhinos at this ground - knocked on, Chisholm stepped past two York defenders and over the line.

Hall scored his first of six conversions.

Any thoughts of that score opening a floodgate were sorely mistaken minutes later. Lewis hoisted what appeared a misjudged kick wide but Jones-Bishop leapt high and produced a brilliant winger’s finish in the corner. Kieran Dixon’s touchline kick drifted wide.

York were the side creating the game’s best chances as the half reached its midpoint. Dow-Nikau was unable to ground a Lewis grubber and Jones-Bishop was sent into touch by the corner flag.

Like at London, the Knights were duly punished by their clinical opponents. Perry Whiteley dropped a Brown bomb and then Craig Kopczak twisted his way over the line from James Lockwood’s short pass.

Once again, York rallied back into the contest. Interchange Marcus Stock was firstly held up, but was not to be denied on the second occasion when his brilliant footwork took him under the posts, leaving Kieran Dixon an easy two points.

With half-time approaching, Featherstone displayed their undoubted quality.

A lovely show of hands to the left, including a brilliant last-pass from makeshift centre John Davies, saw Doyle cross.

Moments later, another switch saw Davies swot aside defender Jason Bass and pass inside for Brown to score.

Those two scores ensured that Featherstone led by 12 points at the break, which looked a sizeable gap given how threatening their attack appeared.

York clearly were not phased by the challenge as two quick-fire tries but them level. First, Brining darted out of dummy half and scored despite the attention of two defenders.

Replays clearly showed the hooker lost the ball but, with no video referee, the try was given.

Then, Hall got lost with a catch and Bass streaked away to score. Two Dixon goals followed for a 22-22 scoreline.

York could not keep up that disciplined period however and Featherstone again displayed why their fans are singing about Super League. Three tries in six minutes meant they had one hand on the cup by the hour mark.

First, Fev again threw the ball to the left and Doyle handed off Whiteley to touch down. Shortly after, Brown sent James Harrison into a gap for the prop to drive over.

And then, Hall added to his penalty goal and two previous conversion when collected an incisive reverse inside pass from Brett Ferres and slide to the whitewash.

Former Hull FC star Hall attempted to add another couple of points to his tally from a penalty goal but it went wide on 66 minutes.

Before the finish, York did manage to register another two tries. A quality solo finish from Lewis was well-deserved for his strong display and Whiteley bagged an intercept score late on.

Sandwiched between those scores, Chisholm added a drop goal that ensured a win that had long seemed inevitable.

Featherstone: Hall, Gale, Hardcastle, Davies, Doyle, Brown, Chisholm, Kopczak, Sweeting, Lockwood, Harrison, Ferres, McConnell.

Subs (all used): Spence, Cooper, Field, Summers.

Tries: Chisholm (8), Kopczak (22), Doyle (34, 54), Davies (36), Harrison (58), Hall (60)

Goals: Hall (7/9)

Drop goal: Chisholm (77)

York: K. Dixon, Jones-Bishop, Dow-Nikau, Bass, Whiteley, Lewis, Washbrook, R. Dixon, Jubb, Teanby, Clarkson, Kirmond, Spears.

Subs (all used): Brining, Stock, Cuthbertson, Scott.

Tries: Jones-Bishop (11), Stock (27), Brining (44), Bass (48), Lewis (72), Whiteley (78)

Goals: K. Dixon (4/5), Lewis (1/1)

York’s man of the match: Mikey Lewis. Tackled well, created several chances and got himself a well-deserved try.