BOTH York Knights’ woeful Betfred Championship form and worsening injury crisis continued with a 40-10 defeat at high-fliers Sheffield Eagles.

The sides were a mismatch from the outset, with the power and quality of the experienced Eagles in stark contrast to a young York side that seem increasingly devoid of creativity after the loss of the spine of their squad to injury.

York were repeatedly carved open at will, with the scoreline no less than Sheffield deserved in an utterly dominant performance to continue their push for promotion to the Betfred Super League.

When former Knight Ben Jones Bishop opened the scoring in the seventh minute there was no looking back for the hosts, who could have had more than their further six scores.

Former Hull KR and Salford Red Devils centre was the Eagle to profit most, crossing for a hat-trick of tries, whilst the battle between Jesse Sene Lefao and Jesse Dee, back at centre after a stint in the halves, was enthralling throughout.

As for York, it’s back to the drawing board ahead of next Sunday’s Betfred Challenge Cup Quarter Final against the Betfred Super League’s in-form Leigh Leopards – a challenge in which they look likely to be without centres James Glover and Jesse Dee after the pair were withdrawn with injury.

Head coach Andrew Henderson made two changes from the Knights that fought so valiantly in their 14-8 defeat at Batley Bulldogs on Sunday, with Ronan Michael and Olly Butterworth coming into the side for Myles Harrison and Oli Pratt, who was again recalled by parent club Wakefield Trinity.

That saw try-scorer Conor Fitzsimmons and Jon Luke Kirby start at prop, James Cunningham moved back into the halves and Michael stand in for the injured Jordan Thompson at loose forward, as Henderson was once again forced to shuffle his pack.

Sheffield boss Mark Aston was able to welcome back Bayley Liu into the second row, while the highly experienced Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e returned at full back.

Errors were symptomatic of the Knights’ evening in South Yorkshire, their first coming from an error from the kick-off that saw their opponents start their very first set from the 40-metre line.

Whilst the Knights were able to hold off that attack, they were duly punished for their next error, with their defence breached for the first time with seven minutes played.

Penalised for a hold on Liu on the 20-metre line, Sheffield spread the play right to Jones-Bishop, who cut inside before breezing past the challenge of youngster AJ Towse to dive into the right corner for his 200th career try.

Cory Aston dragged his conversion narrowly wide of the near post, but that was to be his only missed kick on another fine evening from the tee.

The increasingly physical affair claimed its first victim soon after in Knights centre Glover after a big hit down the left edge, with Jones-Bishop then denied a second try for obstruction.

But such was their quality, the Knights could not hold Sheffield out for long, as they extended their lead to 10 points in sensational style in the 25th minute.

Jones-Bishop cut through the York line with ease, running almost the full length of the field before offloading to Matty Dawson-Jones for a simple finish to the left of the posts.

York Press: Chris Clarkson crossed for his second try of the season during the first half.Chris Clarkson crossed for his second try of the season during the first half. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

But the Knights were not to be deterred, bringing themselves back into the arm wrestle after the impressive Josh Daley saw his kick dropped by Laulu-Togaga’e 10 metres from the line.

That penalty was punished, with York switching the play right, Daley catching Will Jubb’s long pass to put in captain Chris Clarkson for his second try of the season over into the right corner.

With Glover injured, Joe Brown arrowed the conversion between the posts.

But it was to be Sheffield who would round off the scoring before the interval with two quick-fire tries to deflate any chance of a Knights comeback.

First, Jones-Bishop again broke through the York line to find the supporting Welham after racing down the right wing, before a defensive horror show from Henderson’s men saw another former Knight, Anthony Thackeray, ground a kick-chase beneath the posts with less than a minute until half time.

Aston converted both scores with ease to see his side take in a healthy 22-6 advantage at the break.

York were again guilty of inviting field position after the interval, with Aston’s kick-off causing havoc at the back before Jack Teanby lost possession 25 metres from his own line.

Daley, the obvious standout for the Knights, twice broke through the Sheffield defence as York looked to reduce the deficit early, but Fitzsimmons’ offload was intercepted less than five metres from the line.

The Knights’ defence continued to be pressured however, with both Mikey Wood and Jack Hansen held up close to the line before Sheffield capitalised on consecutive York errors for holding, Welham twisting across for his second of the evening.

But it was the Knights who would cross the whitewash next, capitalising on a fielding error from former Bradford Bulls centre Ross Oakes close to his own line, Daley feeding Fitzsimmons to barge his way across into the left corner.

York Press: Josh Daley was by far the Knights' standout player.Josh Daley was by far the Knights' standout player. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

York looked to continue that momentum after winning a scrum on halfway from their next attacking set, but again Henderson’s side were guilty of slowing the ruck speed, their predictable switch left easily read by the hosts.

Instead, they were dealt another blow, Sheffield crossing the whitewash twice in another devastating six-minute spell, in which Dee was also withdrawn with a dislocated finger.

First, Aston found space to break through the line, racing almost the full length of the field to play-in the supporting Laulu-Togaga’e to dive over into the left corner before superbly converting.

York though could have felt themselves hard done by when referee Mike Smaill adjudged an offside 10 metres from their line, Welham profiting from a short pass to muscle his way across the whitewash from close range to complete his hat-trick with two minutes left to play.

Sheffield could have extended their lead inside the final minute as Thackeray, Laulu-Togaga’e and Welham all looked to finish another Aston break, but York managed to scramble bodies back behind the ball.

Another demoralising defeat for Henderson’s side, who also lost a further two players through injury, ahead of the extremely tough test of Super League leaders Leigh Leopards at the LNER Community Stadium next Sunday (5pm).

SHEFFIELD EAGLES: Laulu-Togaga’e, Jones-Bishop, Welham, Oakes, Dawson-Jones, Aston, Thackeray, Kirk, Halafihi, Dickinson, Liu, Sene-Lefao, Hodgson.

INTERCHANGES: Douglas, Wood, Hansen, Broadbent.

TRIES: Jones-Bishop (7), Dawson-Jones (27), Welham (37, 57, 78), Thackeray (39), Laulu-Togaga’e (72)

GOALS: Aston 6/7

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

INTERCHANGES: Harrison, Taai, Teanby, Barnard.

TRIES: Clarkson (33), Fitzsimmons (66)

GOALS: Brown 1/2

POINTS SEQUENCE: 4-0, 8-0, 10-0, 10-4, 10-6, 14-6, 16-6, 20-6, 22-6, 26-6, 28-6, 28-10, 32-10, 34-10, 38-10, 40-10.


YORK’S STAR MAN: Josh Daley. Another brilliant performance by the hooker turned half-back, with almost every Knights attack seeing him at its heart. Two more assists for the Australian, who repeatedly cut through the Sheffield line and is continuing to impress out of position.


REFEREE: Mike Smaill