YORK KNIGHTS eased into the Fourth Round of this season’s Betfred Challenge Cup with a 52-12 victory over National Conference League division two outfit West Bowling at the LNER Community Stadium this afternoon.

It was a hugely spirited performance from the amateur club, who exerted a huge defensive effort to keep the score just above fifty, holding the Knights up on the line on seven occasions in a feisty encounter.

But braces from half-back Liam Harris, former Heworth youngster Brad Ward and second-rower Bailey Antrobus, alongside further scores from AJ Towse, Matty Marsh and Danny Kirmond, saw Andrew Henderson’s charges comfortably seal their progression into the Fourth Round.

Head coach Henderson was reunited with Dean Muir on the sidelines, whom he had worked with at Keighley Cougars in their Betfred League One Invincibles season last year, with another familiar face in former Cougar Josh Lynam also named as the visitors’ starting prop.

And the Bowling line-up did not lack quality, with interchange Liam Darville having featured for Keighley against the Knights in the 2016 iPro Sport Cup Final, full-back Max Trueman the brother of Hull FC scrum-half Jacob, and stand-off Harry Williams arguably not looking out of place in a professional side.

This afternoon also marked special occasions for both Kirmond and the returning Marsh, who both crossed for tries on their 350th senior appearance and 100th in York colours respectively.

The former, whom Henderson was keen to use in a coaching capacity this weekend, was drafted into the side at the last minute in place of James Glover, who welcomed a new addition to his family.

Henderson admitted that he would use today’s fixture to provide game time to a number of fringe players, with Heworth’s Ben Barnard and Brad Ward both handed starts and former York Acorn forward Harry Price making his second appearance for the club from among the interchanges.

Fans were also given their first glimpse of second-rower Ukuma Ta’ai, who joined the Knights from Betfred Championship rivals Newcastle Thunder during the off-season, while Marsh made a welcome return from an elbow injury sustained against Bradford Bulls last month.

The Knights made another of their now-characteristic fast starts, opening the scoring after just five minutes.

Running forward with pace, Antrobus offloaded the ball to Australian hooker Josh Daley, who was given a rare start for the Knights this afternoon, to feed Harris, who strolled over for the opening try underneath the sticks, before converting the score.

There was concern as Jesse Dee was substituted three minutes later with a tight hamstring, but the home faithful were soon celebrating again when a superb offload by captain Chris Clarkson saw Marsh feed Towse to dive into the left corner for his third try in two games.

Though Harris dragged his kick wide from the initial conversion, referee Andy Sweet deemed there to have been a foul from a West Bowling man in the build-up, awarding the Knights a penalty try that was duly converted by Harris from in front of the sticks.

Marsh then turned try-scorer, jinking left, and then right, through gaps in the Bowling defence to mark his 100th York appearance with a try. Harris added the extras for the third time, seeing his side race into a 18-0 advantage.

The aforementioned Trueman, who was one of the visitors’ standout players this afternoon, reduced the deficit with a quarter of an hour gone, bundling over down the right wing after his side had opted to kick short from the restart.

Williams added the extras with the first of two successful conversions for the away side.

A tenacious West Bowling defence forced York into a loose pass close to their line as the half reached its midway point, but they could do nothing three minutes later as Antrobus sent a pass right to Ward, who finished acrobatically into the corner.

That was the first of two tries in as many minutes for the Knights, with Brown, again utilised by Henderson at full-back, profiting from Kirmond’s dummy and stumbling, but managing to ground the ball to the right of the sticks.

As he had the previous attempt, Harris could only fire the conversion wide.

Tongan international Ta’ai thought that he had crossed for a try on debut on the half-hour mark but was penalised for a double movement, before Sweet controversially awarded the visitors another penalty for crossing, despite a nasty tackle on Kirmond.

Trueman held up Myles Harrison, who this week moved into a more central position, over the line in the dying seconds but the Knights still had enough time to run in a try on the hooter, Harris neatly stepping past two defenders for his second score of the afternoon, before converting the score to see the hosts take in a 32-6 lead at the break.

It took eight minutes for the Knights to extend their advantage after the interval, Antrobus profiting from a turnover of possession 30 metres out after a knock-on by Richard Lumb to touch down on the right, with Harris expertly curling the ball between the posts.

West Bowling’s effort was no better reflected than through the substitution of Lewis Galtress, who was visibly exhausted when withdrawn half an hour after coming onto the pitch.

Ward notched his second score of the afternoon in a similar vein to his first after being played in by debutant Ta’ai down the right, before West Bowling again found the whitewash 17 minutes from time when Oliver Bartle crashed through a sea of bodies, sending the away fans into pandemonium.

But the visitors would see out much of the remainder of the tie with 12 men after Trueman was yellow carded for a high tackle on Price in the 67th minute.

His departure proved costly, with Daley held up on the line after turning himself into space, before both Kirmond and Antrobus crossed to the right of the sticks to propel the Knights to their first half-century of the season and a place in the hat for Wednesday’s Fourth Round draw.

York Acorn were also in action this afternoon, with Tim Stubbs crossing for a historic try against Championship heavyweights Bradford Bulls, but his side ultimately crashed out of the competition following a 62-6 defeat.

YORK KNIGHTS: Brown, Towse, Harrison, Clarkson, Ward, Marsh, Harris, Antrobus, Daley, Barnard, Dee, Kirmond, Michael.

INTERCHANGES: Jubb, Teanby, Ta’ai, Price.

TRIES: Harris (5,40), Towse (9), Marsh (12), Ward (24,52), Brown (27), Antrobus (48, 76), Kirmond (74)

GOALS: Harris 6/11

WEST BOWLING: Trueman, Taylor, Wright, Gregory, Simpson, Williams, Coe, Lynam, Carter, Bartle, Lumb, Milburn, Cousins.

INTERCHANGES: Darville, Light, Heald, Galtress

TRIES: Trueman (15), Bartle (63)

GOALS: Williams 2/2

YELLOW CARDS: Trueman (67)

POINTS SEQUENCE: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, 16-0, 18-0, 18-4, 18-6, 22-6, 26-6, 30-6, 32-6, 36-6, 38-6, 42-6, 42-10, 42-12, 46-12, 48-12, 52-12.


YORK’S STAR MAN: Bailey Antrobus. Another solid performance from the second-rower today as prop. If he is found guilty of his Grade F charge on Tuesday night, he will be a huge miss for the Knights.

REFEREE: Andy Sweet (Castleford)