YORK Knights’ Wembley dream came to an end at the LNER Community Stadium, as Batley Bulldogs defeated Andrew Henderson’s side 8-22 to secure their place in the AB Sundecks 1895 cup final.

The Knights needed to defeat a current Betfred Championship play-off occupant to book their place at Wembley Stadium, but a strong performance from an in-form Batley saw York’s three match winning run come to an end, as well as their time in the cup competitions for the season.

But an instrumental display from Batley’s James Meadows in the first half meant that it required an incredible effort from York in the second half, and despite a clear improvement, it wasn’t enough for York.

A positive for Henderson was an incredible try from Liam Harris, that saw the Knights man run 90-meters worth of the pitch before securing a try, reinstating a glimmer of hope for York in the second half.

Henderson’s side will now turn their focus to the Championships season after renewing their form in recent weeks, picking up victories over Sheffield Eagles, Keighley Cougars and Halifax Panthers, seeing the Knights rise to ninth position.

But with their attentions on the 1895 cup, York had seen off four challenges to reach this stage of the competition, which Henderson remains proud of after coming within reaching distance of a trip to the incredible Wembley Stadium.

Victories over West Bowling, Sheffield Eagles, Newcastle Thunder and London Broncos saw the Knights reach the semi-finals, but it would be the end of the road against the current favourites for the competition, Batley.

Henderson was forced into changes with the absence of Brenden Santi and Oli Pratt, who were both cup-tied after previously featuring for Keighley and Wakefield Trinity respectively.

Coming back into the squad however was the experienced Danny Kirmond, albeit from the bench, after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, with the second-rower previously helping Henderson on the coaching side of things throughout his recovery.

The Knights also weren’t the only side in semi-final action this weekend, with York Valkyrie entertaining a semi-final clash in the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup.

The Valkyrie were unfortunate to fall to a narrow 17-16 defeat to St Helen’s on Saturday night, but Director of Rugby Lindsay Anfield was in attendance to help support Henderson in the stands.

Alongside their Director of Rugby, the Valkyrie squad were also in attendance to support the Knights.

Despite Batley’s early dominance in the half, it was York who were awarded the first penalty of the afternoon after AJ Towse suffered a high tackle by Adam Gledhill, with the Knights finding touch over the halfway line.

The early stages of the match saw a number of fouls given away in a feisty contest, with Luke Hooley at the centre of Batley’s attacks.

A quiet first ten minutes boiled over as frustrations persisted, with Ukuma Ta’ai involved in a scuffle on the halfway line, forcing the referee to give a penalty and a speaking to to both captains.

Batley maintained their pressure, but some strong defending on the York goal-line kept the Bulldogs out as Meadows almost snuck in behind on the last tackle.

It took 19 minutes of the match before the deadlock would be broken, with Batley looking the more likely, the Bulldogs took the lead.

Josh Woods helped the ball onto Meadows who slipped the past into the past of Josh Hodson, with the Batley star able to touch down between the sticks.

And in his first of the afternoon, Hooley coolly converted from the centre of the field.

Batley added their second try of the afternoon just six minutes later, as Woods squeezed through close to the line, before Gledhill sprinted between the York defence, who were slow to react, before diving onto the loose ball for Batley’s second try.

Again, Hooley made no mistake and showed his composure, firing home the conversion from a slightly more difficult angle.

Hooley continued to cause issues with a chip-and-chase, but Joe Brown showed his athleticism to win the ball back.

A penalty was awarded against the Knights right before the half-an-hour mark, meaning Hooley had the chance to win Batley another two points, which he calmly did from the tee.

Supporters began to grow frustrations with referee James Vella, before the officials handed York a penalty ten meters out from the Batley line after a high challenge on captain Chris Clarkson, but loanee Jason Bass was unfortunate to lose possession.

Heading into the second half, York were much improved in their performance and began to test the Batley defence in what appeared to be a very organised backline from the Bulldogs.

Ata Hingano was introduced as an interchange and made an impact off the bat, as his pinpoint kick into the corner was collected by Hooley, who found himself trapped in his own goal.

But despite the York pressure, Batley broke and pounced on a defensive error to add another try.

Alistair Leak wrestled beneath two York challenges to break free and in between the sticks following a dummy-half, with the Batley now having their eyes on Wembley.

The Knights weren’t to be dismissed however, as Henderson’s side almost immediately responded.

Jesse Dee retrieved Harris’ kick to send AJ Towse into space on the left-wing, with the York-born starlet breaking free to get the Knights some points on the board.

Harris unfortunately missed the conversion however.

The Knights scrum half quickly made up for his error however with the try of the afternoon.

A fantastic solo effort saw Harris retrieve possession and run as far as 90 meters, avoiding the one Batley man defending before clinching an incredible try to reinstate the belief for the York supporters in the Main Stand. The conversion was missed.

But the match would be settled with Batley securing their place at Wembley, as a foul on Hooley saw the Bulldogs star position himself to score the penalty goal, ending the Knights’ Wembley dream with York now focusing on their match next weekend against London Broncos.

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

INTERCHANGES: Hingano, Kirmond, Michael, Teanby

TRIES: Towse (54), Harris (60)

BATLEY BULLDOGS: Hooley, Morton, Hodson, Kear, McGowan, Meadows, Woods, Gledhill, White, Brown, Manning, Buchanan, Reilly

INTERCHANGES: Kibula, Leak, Flynn, Ward

TRIES: Hodson (19), Gledhill (24), Leak (51)

GOALS: 5/5

POINTS SEQUENCE: 0-4, 0-6, 0-10, 0-12, 0-14, 0-18, 0-20, 4-20, 8-20, 8-22


YORK’S STAR MAN: Bailey Antrobus. A battling performance from Antrobus who gave his all in the match.

REFEREE: James Vella