YORK Knights sealed their place in the Quarter Finals of the Betfred Challenge Cup for the first time since 2004 after completing a stunning second half turnaround to claim a 36-12 victory over London Broncos.

Trailing 12-8 at the interval, the Knights were a side transformed after the break, barely allowing London within 10 metres of the try line in a truly dominant second half to earn themselves a home tie against Betfred Super League outfit Leigh Leopards in the Quarter Finals.

The Knights made the perfect start after sending fit-again winger Olly Butterworth over for a try on his competitive debut, but they soon found themselves behind through scores from former Wakefield Trinity full back Alex Walker and centre Jarred Basset.

York hit back, again through Butterworth, on the stroke of half time and successfully carried that momentum after the interval, as further tries from Josh Daley, Joe Brown, Jordan Thompson, Butterworth and the returning Jesse Dee secured a comfortable progression for Andrew Henderson’s side.

RECAP: York Knights 36-12 London Broncos - Challenge Cup

Henderson made three changes to the Knights squad that triumphed over Newcastle Thunder last weekend, with the fit-again Dee and Butterworth replacing injured pair Ata Hingano and Matty Marsh, and Ireland international prop Ronan Michael handed a rare start in place of recalled Wakefield centre Oli Pratt.

London named the same starting line-up as they had at the LNER Community Stadium two weeks prior, making one change to the side that beat Barrow Raiders last weekend, with Papua New Guinea prop Wellington Albert replacing Dean Parata, a move that shuffled ex-Knight Marcus Stock from loose forward back to prop.

As they had last week against Newcastle Thunder, York made a blistering start to proceedings, profiting from a mistake from the kick-off to open the scoring in just the second minute.

They were gifted a scrum 10 metres out when James Glover’s kick was fumbled by Fijian half-back Henry Raiwalui, with Butterworth diving onto a Dee grubber into the right corner to score his first try in York colours.

York Press: Olly Butterworth opened the scoring for York in just the second minute.Olly Butterworth opened the scoring for York in just the second minute. (Image: Steve Gaunt)

Glover failed to convert the score, the first of four missed kicks from the tee.

However, the Knights were pegged back within four minutes, London taking advantage of a Chris Clarkson knock-on 35 metres from the line to find full-back Walker down the left edge, who jinked left and right before carving through the York defence to touch down, Oli Leyland making no mistake to fire his side in front.

Much has he had in the sides’ Betfred Championship meeting two weeks ago, centre Emmanuel Waine proved a constant thorn in York’s side, and as a result, the Knights remained pegged into their own half for much of the opening 40 minutes.

York would feel disappointed as what seemed to be a head-high tackle on AJ Towse, and then a forward pass went unpunished by referee James Vella in a less than golden refereeing display, and instead found themselves further behind midway through the half.

Henderson had spoken of the Knights’ need to tighten up their defence, but those appeals seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as highly-rated ex-London Skolars centre Bassett carved through the defensive line with ease to cross the whitewash and touch down beneath the posts.

Leyland was again perfect with his kick to give his side a 12-4 advantage, but that would be his last effort of the afternoon.

Stock was withdrawn from the action minutes later after a heavy tackle in the middle of the pitch, with York coming close to falling further behind after Raiwalui’s grubber was grounded beneath the posts, only for the score to be ruled out for offside.

But it was the Knights that found the all-important fourth try, bringing themselves back into the arm wrestle after taking advantage of a big Jack Teanby tackle on Waine.

A fantastic drive from Man of the Match Michael brought the Knights to within 15 metres of the line, before a neat show of hands saw the ball worked right to Butterworth, who capitalised on a limping Waine to dive into the corner to reduce the deficit to four.

York began the second half in the same vein that they had finished the first, sending hooker turned half-back Daley across the line after a jinking run three minutes after the interval, the boot of Glover again seeing his side with the advantage.

York Press: Josh Daley marked another impressive performance with a try from his unfamiliar role as half-back.Josh Daley marked another impressive performance with a try from his unfamiliar role as half-back. (Image: Dean Williams)

And the Knights were across the whitewash again five minutes later as Bill Leyland was penalised for attempting to strip the ball in the tackle on his own 10 metre line, Brown dummying through a gap in the London defence to touch down.

York were a side truly transformed, and extended their advantage soon after, as Thompson shrugged off a tackle before running 25 metres unchallenged to cross the whitewash to the right of the posts.

London threatened to come back into the match after interchange Jordan Williams was given the freedom of the left wing, but veteran forward Ukuma Ta’ai provided a vital try-saving tackle.

Instead, it was the Knights who nudged themselves further in front after the visitors were penalised from the resultant tackle set, Glover arrowing his penalty between the posts to bring the score to 26-12.

Butterworth, who has been sidelined since March 2022 with a recurrence of a shoulder dislocation injury, completed his hat-trick in style with 13 minutes remaining, again profiting from a London forward pass.

The Knights drove forward with pace from halfway, with a move straight off the training ground seeing the ball sprayed left to the impressive Daley to offload to the young winger, who stretched across the line.

Some excellent defence from the Knights saw London twice handed the ball over within 10 metres of their own try line, but they were left nowhere to be seen as former Bradford Bulls and Sheffield Eagles winger Iliess Macani was allowed to race almost the full length of the pitch, but the supporting Waine knocked-on in the process of diving onto his grubber.

There was still time for York to complete the rout with 90 seconds remaining, Dee marking his return from injury with the game’s final try after Glover’s kick cannoned backwards off a London player to Daley, who sent the centre across the line.

Another sensational second-half turnaround from the Knights to seal a home tie against Leigh Leopards on the weekend of June 16-18, and provide them with momentum heading into Saturday’s Summer Bash fixture against runaway Championship leaders Featherstone Rovers (7:30pm).

YORK KNIGHTS: Brown, Towse, Glover, Dee, Butterworth, Cunningham, Daley, Thompson, Jubb, Michael, Field, Clarkson, Kirmond.

INTERCHANGES: Kirby, Harrison, Teanby, Ta’ai, Price.

TRIES: Butterworth (2, 38, 67), Daley (43), Brown (48), Thompson (54), Dee (78)

GOALS: Glover 4/8

LONDON BRONCOS: Walker, Ulberg, Bassett, Waine, Macani, Leyland, Raiwalui, Stock, Davis, Bienek, Lovell, Natoli, Parata.

INTERCHANGES: Horsman, Albert, Williams, Leyland, Allen.

TRIES: Walker (6), Bassett (20)

GOALS: O. Leyland 2/2

POINTS SEQUENCE: 4-0, 4-4, 4-6, 4-10, 4-12, 8-12, 12-12, 14-12, 18-12, 20-12, 24-12, 30-12, 32-12, 36-12.


YORK’S STAR MAN: Ronan Michael. Easily the Irish international’s best performance of the season thus far, with his carries gaining vital yardage for the Knights.

REFEREE: James Vella