A SPIRITED York Knights saw their long-standing winning streak at Mount Pleasant broken this afternoon after falling to a 14-8 defeat to Betfred Championship play-off hopefuls Batley Bulldogs.

York had not lost on the famous West Yorkshire slope since 2013, and looked set to extend that record when James Glover muscled his way across the line to open the scoring midway through the first half.

Despite winger Olly Butterworth becoming the ninth player added to the Knights’ growing injury list, York’s efforts could seldom be criticised, and will provide them with optimism ahead of a month that sees them still yet to face play-off contenders Sheffield Eagles and the Betfred Super League’s in-form side, Leigh Leopards.

However, conversions from both sides were woeful –a Jimmy Meadows penalty from bang in front of the posts the only one to prove successful.

Should Glover have converted his own score and youngster Myles Harrison not have skewed his easier effort narrowly to the left of the posts, York would have found themselves in both in front at half time, and on level terms for a final quarter in which they were firmly on top.

RECAP: Batley Bulldogs 14-8 York Knights

York’s line-up was again a patched-up one, with head coach Andrew Henderson’s two changes seeing former Heworth youngster Harrison and Oli Pratt re-instated in place of the injured Butterworth and Ronan Michael, who dropped to the bench.

That saw James Cunningham moved to loose forward, Pratt into the centres and Jesse Dee alongside the impressive Josh Daley at half-back.

Craig Lingard’s only change for Batley was an enforced, with hooker Ben Kaye replacing Tom Lillycrop, - who missed out under the RFL’s 12-day concussion protocol - as Ben White made his 200th career appearance, an achievement that has also seen him make 80 consecutive appearance in Batley colours.

Today’s occasion marked a special one in remembrance of former Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, who was tragically murdered in 2016, with free entry for all fans.

As expected, Batley chose to attack up the famous Mount Pleasant slope in the first half, forcing York into an error from the kick-off as Jon Luke Kirby was penalised for holding in the tackle on the 40-metre line.

However, thankfully for the Knights, they could not capitalise on their field position to trouble the try line, nor on a turnover on the 30-metre line after Glover had been bundled into touch on the left edge.

York hit back on the 10-minute mark as Joe Brown, again Matty Marsh’s stand-in at full-back, raced through the Batley defence to the 20-metre line before kicking a grubber in the direction of Pratt.

But the returning Wakefield Trinity loanee could only watch on as Scotland international centre Kieran Buchanan excellently shepherded the ball out of play.

Such was the Knights’ tenacity, the majority of the opening half was played between the opposing 30 metre lines, with both sides forced to retreat to kicking from within their own half.

Kaye was held up on the line as Batley looked to assert themselves, but it was York who were across less than a minute later.

York Press: James Glover muscled his way across the line to open the scoring midway through the first half.James Glover muscled his way across the line to open the scoring midway through the first half. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

Capitalising on a penalty won for holding on halfway, they sprayed the play left, with Glover dummying over the line from centre after a superb show of strength in front of the fantastic travelling support.

The Knights thought that they had doubled their advantage on the half-hour mark after Glover offloaded to AJ Towse after running onto Dee’s grubber, only for referee Matt Rossleigh to rule that the pass had been forwards.

With the advantage of playing down the slope clear, York saw another chance go begging five minutes later after a sensational break from interchange prop forward Jack Teanby brought them to within 20 metres of the Batley line, but the home defence stood firm to force the handover five metres out.

And the Knights were made to rue their missed chances, with Batley controversially drawing the score level on the stroke of half time.

York were penalised for an obstruction less than five metres in front of the posts, with Buchanan able to offload left to Elliot Kear, who dived over acrobatically into the left corner, Meadows missing the first of three kicks.

The Knights began the second period with 12 men after Ukuma Ta’ai had been green-carded for a stinger, but such was their effort, the advantage of the slope was rendered almost insignificant for Batley.

York’s first test came six minutes into the half after Batley had advanced to the 20-metre line, but they passed with ease, Glover and Towse combining to scramble Morton into touch down the right edge.

However, Ta’ai knocked-on from the restart, a mistake that would prove costly and see them fall behind for the first time in the 48th minute.

After initially guiding their attack to the Knights’ middles, Batley spread the play left, former Wigan Warriors half-back Josh Woods finding Buchanan to finish spectacularly into the left corner.

And things soon went from bad to worse for York, a mix up at the back between Towse and Brown seeing Batley gifted a penalty for a knock-on, Meadows duly arrowing his kick between the posts to extend his side’s advantage to six.

But the understrength Knights refused to give in against their third-placed opponents, Dee cutting inside before showing fantastic strength to find the whitewash for the third time in as many games after winning a penalty 10 metres out.

Taking over kicking duties, Harrison again failed to find the right side of the posts to add the extras.

York Press: Jesse Dee crossed for his third try in as many games from half-back to jubilant celebrations.Jesse Dee crossed for his third try in as many games from half-back to jubilant celebrations. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

Momentum was firmly with York from that point onwards, with Henderson’s side attacking to within 20 metres of the line, whilst crucially pinning Batley back to within their own 30.

But they could not find the all-important try.

The Knights saw one last chance go begging after opting to grubber into the corner after a break from Pratt and Cunningham, with Batley instead sealing a precious two points with a little over 30 seconds remaining.

After being awarded a scrum for a knock-on down the right edge, the hosts attacked with pace before spreading the play right to Dale Morton to cross into the right corner.

A spirited performance from the Knights, who were just lacking that quality and clinical edge. The games do not come any easier for Henderson’s men however, who now also have to contend with the short turnaround of their trip to Sheffield Eagles on Friday evening (7:30pm).

BATLEY BULLDOGS: McGowan, Morton, Hodson, Buchanan, Kear, White, Woods, Gledhill, Kaye, Flynn, Manning, Walshaw, Reilly.

INTERCHANGES: Senior, Ward, Blake, Meadows, Burton.

TRIES: Kear (39), Buchanan (48), Morton (80)

GOALS: Meadows 1/4

YORK KNIGHTS: Brown, Harrison, Pratt, Glover, Towse, Dee, Daley, Kirby, Jubb, Fitzsimmons, Clarkson, Field, Cunningham.

INTERCHANGES: Teanby, Michael, Ta’ai, Barnard, Ward.

TRIES: Glover (21), Dee (59)

GOALS: Glover 0/1, Harrison 0/1

POINTS SEQUENCE: 0-4, 4-4, 8-4, 10-4, 10-8, 14-8.

YORK’S STAR MAN: James Cunningham. Likely the utility’s best performance of the season at loose forward this afternoon, with some fantastic link-up play between himself and half-backs Daley and Dee.


Referee: Matt Rossleigh