YORK Knights returned from their week’s break in style with a 40-30 victory at Widnes Vikings to keep their outside chance of a Betfred Championship play-off place alive.

After an error-strewn opening 40 minutes that saw York both routinely invite pressure onto their line and lose influential half-back Ata Hingano to an ankle injury, they were a side transformed after the interval.

Jesse Dee’s switch into the halves, coupled with the introduction of Wakefield Trinity loanee Oli Pratt, proved inspired, with Andrew Henderson’s side scoring at will to completely turn the game on its head with five tries in 15 second-half minutes to secure their fourth consecutive victory in Cheshire.

But it was Widnes who had the last word against a visibly exhausted Knights, who were ill afforded the luxury of the same late interchanges as their hosts, full-back Joe Edge and winger Kieran Dixon adding gloss to the scoreline inside the final 10 minutes.

RECAP: Widnes Vikings 30-40 York Knights

Owing to defeats for play-off contenders Batley Bulldogs and Halifax Panthers elsewhere, the Knights are now just four points away from a coveted spot in the top six ahead of Friday’s trip to last-placed Newcastle Thunder.

Henderson made two changes to the York side that suffered a narrow defeat to Toulouse 15 days ago, welcoming back captain Chris Clarkson into the centres, whilst Brenden Santi replaced Ronan Michael at prop.

Taylor Pemberton, signed on loan from Betfred Super League heavyweights St Helens on deadline day, was named among the interchanges, and performed well on his debut until it was cut short by a rib injury.

Both sides came up with early errors in a scrappy start to proceedings, with Widnes unable to keep hold of the ball on the 30-metre line after the Knights had been penalised for offside.

It seemed almost inevitable that the opening try would come from such play, York profiting from a ball steal, and then a mistake in the Widnes back line as Towse collected Harris’ high kick before offloading to Hingano.

Slick hands saw the ball worked along the line to Dee, who wrongfooted a defender to crash over into the right corner, Harris adding the extras to give his side a six-point lead inside the opening eight minutes.

But it didn’t take long for Widnes to hit back, as from a goal-line drop out, a neat show of hands saw the ball worked to former Warrington Wolves second-rower Sam Wilde, who dived over into the left corner, Dixon levelling the scores with the boot.

After Henderson revealed that at least four players would be sidelined for the remainder of the season, York were dealt another injury blow midway through the half when Hingano was left holding his ankle after a tackle, the head coach confirming that he would be sent for scans during the week to discover its extent.

York Press: It's been a bad week on the injury front for the Knights, with Ata Hingano forced from the field during the first half.It's been a bad week on the injury front for the Knights, with Ata Hingano forced from the field during the first half. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

In the aftermath, the Knights fell behind, Widnes finding it all too easy to attack through the centre of the York defence before spreading the play right to Ollie Brookes, who crashed over into the corner to fire his side in front.

York’s ill-discipline though continued, as first they conceded a high tackle 35 metres from their line, before being penalised for offside. Dixon opted to kick on both occasions, scoring the latter but not the former to give his side a 14-6 lead.

However, York kept themselves in contention, as after winning a repeat set 20 metres from the line, Pemberton darted superbly out of dummy half to mark his debut with a try just minutes after being introduced into the action, Harris again converting.

But the last word before the break would be the hosts’, the pressure from a drop out, and then a penalty 10 metres from their line, telling for York as prop Owen Farnworth muscled his way across beneath the posts on the hooter, Dixon restoring his side’s eight-point advantage at the interval.

Buoyed by Henderson’s infamous half-time talks, York were a side transformed after the break.

Having wasted a fantastic opportunity to close the gap after being awarded a scrum 10 metres from the line, the Knights capitalised on their next chance, veteran second-rower Danny Kirmond drawing four defenders into halting his progress, opening up a gap for Pratt to stroll across the line from the next play.

That try proved to be the start of a blistering spell from the visitors, who were utterly unstoppable in the 15 minutes that followed.

From the kick-off, Dee broke through the Widnes line to feed Oli Field to cross beneath the posts, before the stand-in half-back delivered a simply sublime cut-out pass over the heads of four defenders to AJ Towse, whose finish into the left corner sent the travelling York support into raptures.

Three tries in six minutes became four in 11 and five in 15, Joe Brown driving the Knights forward, creating the time and space for Harris to deliver a perfectly-weighted grubber for prop Conor Fitzsimmons to dive onto before Pratt weaved through the Widnes defence, then finding Field to barge over from close range for his second of the afternoon.

York Press: Second-rower Oli Field crossed for a brace of tries on a fine individual afternoon.Second-rower Oli Field crossed for a brace of tries on a fine individual afternoon. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

Harris converted four of the five scores to give York an unassailable 20-point lead with 15 minutes remaining.

However, with York visibly tiring and with no further interchanges remaining, Widnes were able to add gloss to the scoreline late on as first homegrown talent Joe Lyons sent full-back Joe Edge across into the left corner, before some individual brilliance saw Dixon weave past a handful of York defenders before crashing into the pads at the bottom of the posts and across the line.

An outstanding second half from the Knights, to see them record their fourth victory in five matches and keep their play-off bid alive ahead of Friday evening’s trip to Newcastle Thunder (7:45pm).

WIDNES VIKINGS: Edge, Dixon, Roberts, Fleming, Brookes, Lyons, Gilmore, Field, Fozard, Lawton, Wilde, Grady, Brown.

INTERCHANGES: Forber, Davies, Farnworth, Hatton.

TRIES: Wilde (13), Brookes (21), Farnworth (39), Edge (70), Dixon (80)

GOALS: Dixon 4/6, Gilmore 1/1

YORK KNIGHTS: Brown, Bass, Dee, Clarkson, Towse, Hingano, Harris, Santi, Jubb, Fitzsimmons, Field, Kirmond, Thompson.

INTERCHANGES: Pemberton, Michael, Warren, Pratt.

TRIES: Dee (7), Pemberton (33), Pratt (50), Field (53, 65), Towse (56), Fitzsimmons (61),

GOALS: Harris 6/7

POINTS SEQUENCE: 0-4, 0-6, 4-6, 6-6, 10-6, 12-6, 14-6, 14-10, 14-12, 18-12, 20-12, 20-16, 20-20, 20-22, 20-26, 20-28, 20-32, 20-34, 20-38, 20-40, 24-40, 28-40, 30-40.

HALF TIME: 20-12

YORK’S STAR MAN: Jesse Dee. The centre turned half-back was excellent this afternoon, with a try and a couple of assists, including that incredible cut-out pass, to his name.


REFEREE: Mike Smaill