YORK City Knights crumbled to a third straight Betfred Championship defeat as play-off rivals Batley Bulldogs ran out convincing 32-16 winners at the LNER Community Stadium.

Batley completely dominated a one-sided first half in which York never looked like scoring and barely struggled to get inside the Bulldogs half for the most part.

There was no coming back from the 20-0 scoreline that Batley racked up by the break on the back of Luke Hooley’s brace and Jonny Campbell’s try.

York did at least trouble the scoreboard in the second half but the damage had already been by the time they found three tries after the hour mark.

In many ways, this result should not come as a surprise. Batley sat ahead of York in the table pre-match, were buoyed by a seven-match winning streak and faced a side who haven’t produced an eye-catching display against fellow top-half opposition since early May.

But of all the three successive defeats, this was the toughest to take. The 24-16 loss to Barrow Raiders was at least close while the 36-10 defeat at Halifax Panthers was competitive for 50 minutes. The Knights could cling on to neither of those facts against Batley.

The Knights may remain in fifth, a sizeable eight points clear inside the play-offs, but should they lose at Featherstone Rovers and Barrow beat Bradford Bulls on Sunday (3pm), as expected on both counts, they would drop to sixth, having sat in third for much of the season.

Coupled with falling behind in the race for third, this was a bruising night on the injury front.

York lost prop Masi Matongo after less than two minutes to injury, only a week after losing Ronan Michael and Jamie Ellis to knocks at Halifax Panthers. Fellow forward Chris Clarkson would later be removed for a head injury assessment.

On the performance side, at the end of the first half, the Knights could only point towards one real chance, with James Glover put in touch down the right side after seven minutes.

Batley worked tirelessly in defence and consistently forced Harris and Brendan O’Hagan to kick from inside their own half, while the Bulldogs made good metres with relative ease in contrast.

Craig Lingard’s side were doing nothing spectacular but the basics were executed so well: their forwards making good metres, completing their sets and kicking smartly.

The visitors’ kicking game was led by talisman Tom Gilmore, whose 40/20 set up the first try as Hooley stepped inside Harris on the line.

Gilmore tagged on his first of six goals from as many attempts.

York’s cause was certainly not helped by a growing number of errors, with Danny Kirmond’s drop followed by Stock losing possession on halfway.

From the latter, Martyn Reilly produced a wonderful offload from which Alastair Leak put Hooley through for his double.

Another mistake, with Harrison unable to take Gilmore’s bomb, followed by a penalty allowed Gilmore to kick Batley 14-0 ahead from the tee.

As the half drew to the close, the Knights increasingly found metres immensely tough to come by. Twice they kicked from their own 40 and with the requisite field position, Batley capitalised.

A clever shift to the left side saw Jonny Campbell step inside to finish in the left corner.

That 20-0 half-time deficit could well have been greater had Gilmore not thrown the ball to the deck after Hooley’s break past Pauli to York’s 10.

Eight minutes after the restart, Batley increased their lead as, on the back of a close-range penalty for Pauli’s high shot, Dane Manning crashed over from Leak’s short ball at the line.

The Knights built some pressure through back-to-back drop-outs but their misfiring attack saw the period end in Joe Brown unable to ground from his high leap at O’Hagan kick wide.

On the hour, the home side were finally on the scoreboard. Harris chipped over the top and his quick-thinking was rewarded as he dived on the loose ball through several chasing bodies.

He converted his own try, the first of two conversions from three shots on goal.

The consistent York errors - on this occasion Chris Clarkson throwing to touch - allowed Batley back in, as James Meadows fed a lovely short ball for Lucas Walshaw to race away.

To York’s credit, there was no lack of effort despite the reaffirmed 26-point deficit. They managed two late consolation tries that did at least show some second-half fight.

First, AJ Towse produced a wonderful diving acrobatic finish in the corner from Brendan O’Hagan’s cut-out pass.

Then, the 12-man Knights, who lost Pauli to the sin-bin for a high shot, scored through Danny Kirmond. The former Wakefield Trinity captain spin over from close range after a sharp dummy-half pass from York debutant Tom Inman.

The gap was tightened but the final result was long since decided.

York: Harrison, Brown, Glover, Edwards, Towse, O’Hagan, Harris, Matongo, Jubb, Teanby, Clarkson, Kirmond, Pauli.

Subs (all used): Thompson, Stock, Antrobus, Inman.

Tries: Harris (60’), Towse (70’), Kirmond (75’)

Goals: Harris (2/3)

Sin-bins: Pauli (73’)

York’s star man: AJ Towse. Produced a moment of magic with a great solo finish and had a hand in Kirmond late score too.

Batley: Hooley, Morton, Buchanan, Hodson, Campbell, White, Gilmore, Brown, Kaye, Reilly, Manning, Walshaw, Flynn.

Subs (all used): Leak, Meadows, Ward, Blake.

Tries: Hooley (17’, 26’), Campbell (37’), Manning (48’), Walshaw (67’)

Goals: Gilmore (6/6)

Referee: James Child

Attendance: Not given

Penalties/Six-agains: 7-6

Goal-line drop-outs forced: 2-2