YOUNGSTERS Oli Field and Oli Pratt both scored their first tries in York Knights colours this afternoon as they came from behind to earn a 26-22 victory over Newcastle Thunder.

It was far from a vintage performance from the Knights, but as they have done so often over the past month, they found just enough to win.

Winger AJ Towse opened the scoring for York after just 27 seconds, setting the tone for a pulsating opening 40 minutes in which the hosts were made to pay for their errors as Ted Chapelhow, Gideon Boafo, Mitch Clark and Alex Donaghy fired Newcastle into a 22-14 half-time lead.

But, as it had in the sides’ previous fixture last month, head coach Andrew Henderson’s team talk proved golden, the Knights showing a much more disciplined performance after the interval to take control of the second half and come away with a vital two points, despite only leading for eight minutes.

RECAP: York Knights 26-22 Newcastle Thunder

Henderson was able to name an unchanged starting line-up but opted to make two changes to his bench, with second-rower Danny Kirmond and the versatile James Cunningham returning from suspension and a head knock respectively in place of former Heworth youngsters Ben Barnard and Myles Harrison.

Looking for a reaction from last weekend’s defeat against Halifax Panthers, Chris Thorman made four changes to his Newcastle Thunder side, welcoming back influential centre Marcus Walker, who had scored in their Betfred Challenge Cup defeat at York last month, as well as handing former Bradford Bulls and Sheffield Eagles centre Oscar Thomas his debut after a successful trial spell.

Fans had barely enough time to find their seats as York opened the afternoon’s scoring after just 27 seconds, in a blistering opening characteristic of their impressive start to the season, but that has been lacking of late.

York Press: AJ Towse opened the scoring after just 27 seconds for York.AJ Towse opened the scoring after just 27 seconds for York. (Image: Dean Williams)

Driving forward at pace from the kick-off, a neat show of hands saw the ball worked to James Glover, who found the in-form Towse to his left to dive over into the corner for his fourth try in his last two games.

Glover was successful from the tee, but that would prove to be his only conversion on a disappointing individual afternoon.

But the Knights would come down from that high almost instantaneously, as the kick-off was missed by prop Jon Luke Kirby, Newcastle building on the field position that they had been gifted to send Chapelhow across the whitewash to the left of the posts. The boot of impressive half-back Nikau Williams drew the scores level.

And York were further made to pay for the errors that had crept into their game 10 minutes later, as a tackle on Joe Brown, and resultant goal-line drop out, proved costly.

Young full-back Donaghy skipped through several attempted tackles before spreading the play left to former London Broncos winger Boafo, who marked his second match back from injury with a try after diving into the left corner.

Knights fans had been left aggrieved at referee Scott Mikalauskas’ failure to award them a penalty for what appeared to have been a head-high tackle on Matty Marsh, and were soon even more so as the York defence seemingly parted like the sea close to their try line.

A poor defensive set from York saw the visitors need only three tackles to bring themselves just 10 metres from the line, with Clark able to power his way across the line from close range to extend his side’s advantage, Williams again arrowing his conversion between the posts.

York failed to make headway from the restart, but their next tackle set would prove fruitful, new signing Oli Pratt delivering a bursting run from the centres to bring them to within 15 metres, before offloading to the supporting Brown for his sixth try in his last five matches against Newcastle.

And two tries became three for the Knights six minutes later as quick thinking from Tongan international half-back Ata Hingano saw him kick a grubber into space, with Field, who made his loan from Betfred Super League heavyweights Leeds Rhinos permanent earlier this week, first to the loose ball to cross for a maiden try in York colours.

York Press: Oli Field marked his permanent move to York with a brace, his first tries in York colours.Oli Field marked his permanent move to York with a brace, his first tries in York colours. (Image: Dean Williams)

Glover again failed to convert, with a moment of madness seeing him also at fault for a Newcastle score on the stroke of half-time.

A defensive horror show from the Knights left Donaghy hardly able to believe his luck as he was allowed to collect a loose pass, before running from his own 30-metre line to cross unchallenged underneath the posts, the boot of Williams firing his side into a 22-14 lead at the interval.

York though were a team transformed after the break, nilling their opponents, who never came close to the try line in the final 40 minutes, despite losing Hingano to a knock at half-time.

Excellent tenacity from Field and loose forward Jordan Thompson saw the visitors only able to make inroads to 25 metres, before being penalised for a forward pass.

And the Knights were across the whitewash less than a minute later, as captain Chris Clarkson drove for the line before offloading for Field to muscle his way across to bring the scores back to within four.

Glover came within inches of playing in Towse from the restart, but was bundled into touch, with neither team able to come close to the try line in the four tackle sets that followed.

Instead, it took another Newcastle error to see the Knights again fire themselves back onto level terms, profiting from a knock-on from Hull FC loanee Denive Balmforth to play the ball left through the line to Glover, who powered across the line.

The Knights were, at times, guilty of overplaying, and should have given themselves the advantage with 10 minutes remaining after winning a six-again 20 metres from the line, but instead of kicking, interchange James Cunningham opted to continue to attack, handing possession back to the visitors 10 metres from the try line.

But York did not give up and had their just reward in the 76th minute when a neat show of hands saw the ball reach Pratt, who took the ball in his stride before diving across the whitewash.

York Press: Former Heworth youngster Oli Pratt scored the winning try in fine fashion.Former Heworth youngster Oli Pratt scored the winning try in fine fashion. (Image: Dean Williams)

Glover again failed to arrow his kick between the posts but that proved to be just enough for York to seal a vital two points, ahead of their Challenge Cup Sixth Round tie against London Broncos on Sunday (3pm).

YORK KNIGHTS: Marsh, Towse, Glover, Pratt, Brown, Hingano, Daley, Ta’ai, Jubb, Kirby, Field, Clarkson, Thompson.

INTERCHANGES: Kirmond, Cunningham, Michael, Teanby, Harrison.

TRIES: Towse (1), Brown (27), Field (33, 50), Glover (64), Pratt (76)

GOALS: Glover 1/6

NEWCASTLE THUNDER: Donaghy, Boafo, Walker, Thomas, Clegg, Miller, Williams, Chapelhow, Davies, Moore, Windrow, Staveley, Bailey.

INTERCHANGES: Clark, Balmforth, Tuliatu, Okoro, Gallagher.

TRIES: Chapelhow (4), Boafo (14), Clark (21), Donaghy (40)

GOALS: Williams 3/4

POINTS SEQUENCE: 4-0, 6-0, 6-4, 6-6, 6-10, 6-14, 6-16, 10-16, 14-16, 14-20, 14-22, 18-22, 22-22, 26-22.

HALF TIME: 14-22

YORK’S STAR MAN: Oli Field. A performance that showed just why he’s made the permanent move to York, with some fantastic defending capped off with a brace of tries. Josh Daley was also impressive in the halves.

REFEREE: Scott Mikalauskas