YORK Knights continued their recent Betfred Championship revival this afternoon with a 23-18 victory over play-off chasers Sheffield Eagles at the LNER Community Stadium.

From the moment that half-back Liam Harris ran the length of the field to open the scoring in the 12th minute, the match proved to be a thrilling end-to-end encounter that could have swung either way, but the Knights took their opportunities at key times to run out worthy winners.

The Knights have now reigned victorious in both of their fixtures against Sheffield at the LNER after April’s outstanding Betfred Challenge Cup triumph, but unlike that day, they owed much of today’s result to a superb second half.

Trailing by eight points at the break, head coach Andrew Henderson’s half-time talk provided a characteristic strong response from his side after the interval, tries from Jordan Thompson and Jesse Dee, and a drop-goal from Harris confirming their eighth league victory of the campaign.

The result still leaves Henderson’s charges ninth in the Championship table but will provide them with plenty of confidence ahead of next weekend’s AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Semi Final at home to Batley Bulldogs – where a trip to Wembley is the prize.

RECAP: York Knights 23-18 Sheffield Eagles 

Henderson made two enforced changes to his Knights line-up ahead of the encounter, with hooker Josh Daley sidelined with a Grade 2 PCL injury to his right knee, and former Heworth youngster Myles Harrison unavailable due to illness.

That saw Will Jubb and half-back Ata Hingano return following their respective knee and ankle injuries, with the head coach pleased to have been able to maintain continuity within the majority of his squad.

Mark Aston made a solitary change to his Sheffield side, with Evan Hodgson reinstated to the starting line-up in place of Tyler Dickinson, which saw Titus Gwaze deployed at prop rather than loose forward.

Sheffield started the better of the sides as they looked to exploit the youth of AJ Towse down the Knights’ left, but Ben Jones-Bishop was unable to hold onto a fast cut-out pass in his direction.

With attacking the wings evident in Aston’s plan, the visitors spread the play left, but were left vulnerable, Jason Bass coming close to cutting out a pass in the direction of former St Helens and Hull FC winger Matty Dawson-Jones.

York Press: Liam Harris opened the scoring after running the length of the field.Liam Harris opened the scoring after running the length of the field. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

And the Knights were wise to that same move just one play later, Harris the grateful recipient to race from his own 10-metre line to cross narrowly to the right of the posts before converting his score to bring up 300 points in York colours.

But any York joy was short-lived, as the visitors hit back three minutes later.

The hosts were penalised for a knock-on 10 metres from their line from the kick-off, with Jones-Bishop cutting inside and diving over into the right corner from the resultant scrum, the boot of Aston bringing the scores level.

With the atmosphere turning sour due to some less than spectacular officiating, the Eagles began to find their groove, tackling Joe Brown often within 20 metres of his own line whilst forcing errors from the Knights.

Sheffield saw both Aston’s pass to Dawson-Jones instead find touch and former York scrum-half Anthony Thackeray, who scored his 350th career try last weekend, knock-on within inches of the whitewash, but did finally get their noses in front four minutes before the interval.

After winning a goal-line drop out, slick hands saw the ball played along the line to Dawson-Jones, who showed an electric turn of pace to skip through the York defence and touch down into the left corner, Aston firing his side into a six-point lead at the break.

Having hung onto Sheffield coat tails to keep themselves in contention during the first half, York were utterly dominant in the second.

They began the second half like a train, winning a six-again for a hold on tricky centre Dee 35 metres out, before prop Brenden Santi was held up underneath the posts on the last tackle.

When the visitors failed to correctly field Dee’s grubber, the Knights took their opportunity, a lovely show of hands seeing the ball played along the line to Bass, who marked his second home debut with a try after acrobatically diving into the right corner.

But the threat of a break remained persistent from the visitors, Aston thrice racing away from the York defence on the kick-return but being brought down on every occasion.

Scotland international Bayley Liu was next to lose the ball whilst bearing down on the Knights’ line as Sheffield looked to drag themselves back into the arm wrestle, but they instead found themselves behind.

The visitors were penalised for a hold on prop Conor Fitzsimmons 20 metres from the line, with Thompson muscling his way over from close range from loose forward, the boot of Harris giving his side a four-point advantage with 20 minutes left to play.

Whilst the referee’s whistle seldom continued to give any decisions York’s way, Sheffield were guilty of inviting their visitors into attacking field position through unforced errors.

Jesse Sene-Lefao’s fumble from a cut-out pass presented Harris, and then Bailey Antrobus with the opportunity to drive the Knights past halfway before his side then gave away a six-again for a foul on James Cunningham 10 metres from their line.

And that error was duly punished by York, a neat show of hands seeing the ball played right to Dee, who cut inside to crash over the whitewash for his fifth try in his last three appearances.

York Press: Jesse Dee and Ata Hingano celebrate the former's try.Jesse Dee and Ata Hingano celebrate the former's try. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

However, Sheffield were again quick to respond, as after the Knights had dubiously been punished for some outstanding defending by Fitzsimmons, Sene-Lefao twisted and turned his way across to the left of the posts, Aston bringing the scores back within four.

But Harris was on hand to ensure an outstanding victory for the hosts with four minutes remaining after arrowing a drop-goal from 30 metres between the posts.

The cheers at full time drowned out both the hooter and the referee’s whistle, with York full of confidence ahead of next Sunday’s 1895 Cup Semi Final against Batley (12pm).

YORK KNIGHTS: Brown, Towse, Clarkson, Dee, Bass, Cunningham, Harris, Ta’ai, Jubb, Fitzsimmons, Field, Antrobus, Thompson.

INTERCHANGES: Hingano, Michael, Teanby, Santi.

TRIES: Harris (12), Bass (48), Thompson (59), Dee (69)

GOALS: Harris 4/5

SHEFFIELD EAGLES: Laulu-Togaga’e, Jones-Bishop, Glover, Liu, Dawson-Jones, Aston, Thackeray, Douglas, Halafihi, Gwaze, Farrell, Sene-Lefao, Hodgson.

INTERCHANGES: Oakes, Broadbent, Kirk, Hansen.

TRIES: Jones-Bishop (15), Dawson-Jones (36), Sene-Lefao (73)

GOALS: Aston 3/3

POINTS SEQUENCE: 4-0, 6-0, 6-4, 6-6, 6-10, 6-12, 10-12, 14-12, 16-12, 20-12, 22-12, 22-16, 22-18, 23-18.


YORK’S STAR MAN: Jordan Thompson. A fantastic game from the loose forward, who fully deserved his try and was instrumental in gaining field position for York.

REFEREE: James Vella