IT was seventh time lucky for York Knights as they fought back to claim a shock 28-18 victory over Betfred Championship play-off chasers Halifax Panthers at the LNER Community Stadium this afternoon.

When full-back James Woodburn-Hall was given the freedom of the right wing to open the scoring after just four minutes it looked as though the Knights would continue their six-match winless streak, but Andrew Henderson’s charges were a side transformed from Wednesday evening’s dejecting defeat at Whitehaven and were good value for their win.

Despite being without ever-present hooker Will Jubb and influential half-back Ata Hingano to a knee infection and ankle injury respectively, York were able to field perhaps their strongest side since mid-March, with Welsh forward Bailey Antrobus – making his first appearance in over two months after a groin strain – particularly impressive.

The errors that had been so prevalent in Cumbria were seldom seen at a windy and overcast LNER Community Stadium, with head coach Henderson left particularly delighted to have stopped their high-flying opponents from crossing the whitewash after the interval, and even more so to have risen to 10th in the Championship table.

Henderson made three changes from Wednesday evening’s 26-24 defeat at Whitehaven, with Antrobus returning to partner Oli Field in the second row, Jesse Dee alongside Chris Clarkson in the centres and Ronan Michael at prop.

That saw Hingano, Danny Kirmond and Jack Teanby drop out after the trio picked up knocks in midweek.

Simon Grix also opted to make changes to his Halifax line-up, with centre Zach McComb returning to the interchanges after suspension and prop Kevin Larroyer from injury, while former Hull FC and Castleford Tigers centre Mahe Fonua was also handed a start.

The afternoon also marked a special occasion for Adam O’Brien and Jacob Fairbank, who both made their 250th career appearances.

York almost made the perfect start in the swirling wind as Harrison’s short kick-off was missed by Woodburn-Hall, with Brenden Santi fingertips away from collecting the loose ball on the 20-metre line.

It was instead the play-off chasers who opened the scoring in just the fourth minute as a kick from French half-back Louis Jouffret missed everyone in black and amber, allowing Woodburn-Hall to gather before twisting his way across the whitewash and into the right corner.

Jouffret made no mistake to add the extras on a near faultless afternoon with the boot that saw him arrow between the posts on three occasions.

York needed to respond quickly and did so excellently, young second-rower Field driving forward 30 metres down the left edge before feeding the supporting James Cunningham to cross the line before grounding beneath the posts.

York Press: Myles Harrison had a fantastic afternoon from the tee, a far cry from the criticism he received in Cumbria on Wednesday night.Myles Harrison had a fantastic afternoon from the tee, a far cry from the criticism he received in Cumbria on Wednesday night. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

Former Heworth youngster Myles Harrison had received some criticism for his kicking game in Cumbria but was far better this afternoon, his conversion bringing the scores level in the 10th minute.

The Knights had been guilty of needlessly inviting pressure upon their line at Whitehaven, and they again gifted Halifax the opportunity to nudge themselves back in front from a knock-on from the restart.

After twice seeing players held up on the line, that error was duly punished by the visitors, winger James Saltonstall profiting from a sublime cut-out pass to dive across into the corner.

York again tried to respond almost immediately through Santi but instead saw themselves controversially fall eight points behind, Saltonstall again crossing into the right corner, despite the pass to him appearing to have been forwards.

That could have broken the Knights, but instead they rallied, dragging themselves back into the arm wrestle after Halifax were penalised for offside, half-back Liam Harris offloading right to the returning Dee, who cut inside before bundling over the line.

The visitors were guilty of failing to pressure stand-in full-back Joe Brown, who was routinely able to reach beyond his own 20-metre line on the kick return.

Carries from Brown and Antrobus proved instrumental as York drew themselves back onto level terms for the second time in the 35th minute, hooker Josh Daley finding Harrison to his right, who opened up space to dive into the corner before adding the extras.

It was Halifax who came out with added impetus after the interval, the visitors completing their tackle sets high into York territory whilst pegging the hosts back inside their own half yet struggling to find the final touch.

That was just rewarded midway through the half, as after a high tackle, Jouffret sealed what could have proved a crucial two points after opting to kick from the 30-metre line.

But any momentum was knocked out of the visitors’ sails less than a minute later with what was undoubtedly the game-defining try.

Halifax were careless from the kick off, with top-scorer AJ Towse able to intercept a loose pass before running forward unchallenged 85 metres to cross beneath the posts to a standing ovation. Harrison again converted, giving his side a four-point lead.

York Press: Winger AJ Towse ran 85 metres before diving across underneath the posts.Winger AJ Towse ran 85 metres before diving across underneath the posts. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

York had both Santi to thank for some outstanding try-line defence and Brown for a fantastic catch close to his own line as the pressure on their defence continued to build, before they sealed a crucial two points with five minutes left to play.

The Knights looked to have neither capitalised on a scrum nor a repeat set for offside 10 metres from the line but managed to spray the ball right on the last tackle, Dee offloading quickly to Harrison, who managed to ground the ball whilst falling backwards over the line to spark jubilation.

A fantastic two points for York that propels them up to 10th position and above both Barrow and next weekend’s opponents, Henderson’s old employers, Keighley Cougars.

YORK KNIGHTS: Brown, Towse, Clarkson, Dee, Harrison, Cunningham, Harris, Santi, Daley, Michael, Field, Antrobus, Thompson.

INTERCHANGES: Fitzsimmons, Ta’ai, Ward, Pratt.

TRIES: Cunningham (9), Dee (27), Harrison (35, 75), Towse (56)

GOALS: Harrison 4/5

HALIFAX PANTHERS: Woodburn-Hall, Walmsley, Crooks, Fonua, Saltonstall, Jouffret, Wood, Larroyer, O'Brien, Calcott, Kavanagh, Gee, Fairbank.

INTERCHANGES: Tangata, McComb, Lannon, Inman.

TRIES: Woodburn-Hall (4), Saltonstall (12,21)

GOALS: Jouffret 3/4

POINTS SEQUENCE: 0-4, 0-6, 4-6, 6-6, 6-10, 6-14, 6-16, 10-16, 14-16, 16-16, 16-18, 20-18, 22-18, 26-18, 28-18.

HALF TIME: 16-16

YORK’S STAR MAN: AJ Towse. You could put a case together for much of this afternoon’s team to be voted the Man of the Match, but Towse just pips it for his outstanding try, which ultimately turned the game in York’s favour.

REFEREE: Mike Smaill