YORK City Knights fell to fifth in the Betfred Championship after suffering a crushing 36-10 defeat at play-off rivals Halifax Panthers.

Three tries in the space of little over 10 minutes put Halifax in a commanding position by the half-hour mark before an incredible period of backs-against-the-walls defence saw out a first-half which would ultimately define the contest.

Halifax’s top-scorer Lachlan Walmsley continued his hot streak with two of Halifax’s six tries, with the Knights only able to score once in each half.

The defeat at The Shay was a further reminder of the gulf between the two sides, despite what being level on 26 points in the table may suggest. The combined scoreline across the two fixtures this year is 76-34 to Halifax.

Fax are now up to third, with Batley Bulldogs, also on 26 points, dropping to fourth. It should be remember though that, despite York holding the best-of-the-rest position for several weeks, third is where practically all Championship aficionados predicted Simon Grix’s side to finish in pre-season, justifiably so given their squad strength.

That was highlighted by the recalls of captain Brandon Moore and long-serving winger James Saltonstall while York’s team news saw Matty Marsh drop out injured, with teenage pair AJ Towse and Myles Harrison both in their 17.

Harrison begun from the bench, with Liam Harris starting at full-back, meaning half-backs Harris, Brendan O’Hagan and Jamie Ellis started in the same 13 for the first time.

The two sides were closely-matched through the first dozen minutes in a set-for-set start.

Three quick-fire tries for Halifax, scored in the space of 11 minutes, quickly changed the complexion of the match.

From a six-again, James Woodburn-Hall showed a turn of pace down the left flank before putting Lachlan Walmsley over for his 16th try of the season.

Joe Keyes added the first of six successful kicks from seven attempts on goal.

York were their own worst enemies once more when, straight from a penalty, Louis Jouffret put Matty Gee through a gap before the second-row handed off for Dan Murray to dive over.

Gee almost turned from hero to villain when his knock-on gave York some rare good ball though it only ended in a O’Hagan reverse kick being picked off by Woodburn-Hall who raced 90m before allowing Ben Tibbs to finish.

An 18-0 lead after less than half an hour took the game beyond York, though that was not for a lack of effort through the remaining 55 minutes from the visitors.

For the next 15 minutes, up until the interval, the Knights threw the kitchen sink at Halifax’s line and only broke through it once, even then in a rather circumspect manner.

Kyle Wood’s error gave field position for O’Hagan to grubber through and for Chris Clarkson to ground, albeit somewhat unconvincingly and to the home fans’ dismay.

Jamie Ellis’ conversion was wide but O’Hagan’s kick was better after the restart, the Australian nailing a 40/20.

That set off a remarkable spell that saw York camped in Fax’s 20. Back-to-back penalties, a six-again and a couple of quick-fire drop-outs saw Halifax’s defence tested to its limit.

It stood strong though, in the face of some clunky attack it should be said, and the offence-against-defence period finally ended in Joe Brown being put in touch.

That 15-minute spell already felt match-defining, even at the break, and had Fax 18-4 up.

York had the better of the early exchanges after the restart and a deep penalty offered more good ball, although once more they were unable to profit.

On this occasion, Pauli Pauli charged at the line from Harris’ short-ball and while his team-mates celebrated a try, referee Aaron Moore signalled a knock-on. That was as close as York came to scoring until Will Jubb’s late consolation.

The Panthers hit back through chances for Tibbs and Larroyer on the right, the latter squandering a massive overlap.

And on 56 minutes, the second-half’s first score finally went the way of the hosts. In front of the baying South Stand, ex-Fax man Harris dropped Keyes’ bomb in Walmsley’s tackle, allowing the kicker to gleefully dive over.

Fellow Halifax half-back Louis Jouffret then got in on the act by squirming over from dummy-half down the right side after Woodburn-Hall tested York’s goal-line defence.

With five minutes left, the Knights salvaged some pride through Jubb’s score, finished in a similar manner to Jouffret’s from a close range acting-half dart. Having seen Ellis hobble off the field, Harris successfully took over the kicking duties.

But the final word belonged to Halifax and deservedly so. Keyes added a penalty goal and just seconds before the hooter sounded, Walmsley acrobatically leapt in for his second.

Halifax: Woodburn-Hall, Saltonstall, Tibbs, Arundel, Walmsley, Keyes, Jouffret, Calcott, Moore, Murray, Kavanagh, Gee, Fairbank.

Subs (all used): Fairbank, Wood, Barber, Larroyer.

Tries: Walmsley (13’, 80’), Murray (18’), Tibbs (24’), Keyes (56’), Jouffret (67’)

Goals: Keyes (6/7)

York: Harris, Brown, Glover, Edwards, Oakes, O’Hagan, Ellis, Matongo, Jubb, Pauli, Kirmond, Clarkson, Thompson.

Subs (all used): Teanby, Harrison, Michael, Antrobus.

Tries: Clarkson (28’), Jubb (75’)

Goals: Ellis (0/1), Harris (1/1)

York’s star man: AJ Towse. Defended solidly down a youthful left edge.

Referee: Aaron Moore

Attendance: 1,621

Penalties/Six-agains: 12-10

Goal-line drop-outs forced: 0-2