YORK Knights took another step towards an unlikely place in the Betfred Championship play-offs with an outstanding 20-10 victory at promotion-contenders Bradford Bulls this afternoon.

It proved to be an enthralling contest from the first second until the last, with the Knights exhibiting more of the true grit and determination to see themselves across the line against their fancied hosts.

Knowing that defeat would all but extinguish their play-off hopes, the injury-hit Knights battled hard, denting Bradford’s ambitions of a top-four finish whilst keeping themselves within two points of a spot in the top six ahead of next Monday’s crucial home clash with Batley Bulldogs.

A controversial penalty try awarded for a kick by AJ Wallace on Myles Harrison 12 minutes into the contest gave York an early lead, but the Bulls never went away, the sides exchanging penalties throughout as tensions threatened to boil over thanks to Scott Mikalauskas' refereeing.

Things slowed down after the interval, but the Knights held firm in their try-line defence, an eighth win in nine matches no less than they deserved for their gargantuan effort.

RECAP: Bradford Bulls 10-20 York Knights

Head coach Andrew Henderson made two changes from the side that narrowly triumphed over Swinton Lions last weekend with prop Ukuma Ta’ai returning from a knee injury and veteran Danny Kirmond to the second row in place of Sheffield Eagles loanee Jason Bass and York Acorn youngster Harry Price.

That also saw Jesse Dee move back into the centres and Wakefield Trinity loanee Oli Pratt handed his first start on the wing, whilst Harrison remained at full-back.

The Bulls also made changes to their line-up, Hull FC loanee Connor Wynne returning at full-back, Leeds Rhinos’ Liam Tindall on the wing and Welsh international Chester Butler to the second row after recovering from a fractured hand, but Lee Greenwood’s side were without the influential Lee Gaskell through tonsillitis.

Bradford, keen to avenge February’s defeat in North Yorkshire, started well in their plight for a top-four finish after forcing York to kick from deep within their own half in each of the first three sets, however found their own end-product lacking.

Former Leeds Rhinos half-back Jordan Lilley failed a 40/20 before seeing his short chip go out on the full, presenting York with their first real opportunity of the match from a 20-metre restart.

Slick hands saw the ball worked to the Knights’ right edge, Liam Harris feeding Harrison to jink inside off his right foot, but losing the ball as he looked to drive over beneath the posts.

Despite being brought down short, after discussing with his touch judge, Mikalauskas awarded a penalty try to the visitors, ruling that the former Heworth youngster had been kicked, Harris duly converting to give the Knights a six-point lead with 12 minutes played.

Feeling aggrieved, it took the Bulls just three minutes to bring the scores back level as after the Knights were penalised for a head-high tackle, Wynne marked his return with a try after crashing over from close range, Lilley making no mistake with his conversion.

The Knights’ mistakes proved costly shortly after, Lilley firing his side into the lead for the first time after Conor Fitzsimmons was penalised for a late shot on half-back Tom Holmes.

Despite hooker Will Jubb being held up narrowly short of the line, the majority of the action continued to happen at the other end of the field, though York scrambled well to deny Papua New Guinea forward Keven Appo from close range after they had conceded a six-again within 10 metres of their line.

A big hit from Butler looked to have triggered a recurrence of Josh Daley’s knee injury as the opening half drew to a close but the Knights were back level from the next play, Harris again on target from the tee after Pauli Pauli had won a penalty for laying.

And things could have improved for the visitors on the hooter, having won a six-again inside Bradford’s 10-metre line, but Harris saw his grubber go out on the full, leaving the scores tied at eight apiece at the interval.

York Press: It was a physical affair throughout, with Jesse Dee one of a number of players sent for a HIA.It was a physical affair throughout, with Jesse Dee one of a number of players sent for a HIA. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

The Bulls were dealt an early blow after the restart as David Foggin-Johnston headed down the tunnel for a head injury assessment after a clash with Pratt, but soon restored their advantage.

Top try-scorer Kieran Gill was tackled in the air as he looked to gather a Harris kick, Lilley again converting to put the hosts back in front.

Dee was the next to face a head injury assessment after taking an elbow to the face from Ebon Scurr as the rain began to fall, but the Knights soon found their feet, Harrison able to advance to halfway on the kick-return before Pratt trapped Foggin-Johnston in-goal to win a drop-out.

And that was a gift that Henderson’s side did not waste, St Helens hooker Taylor Pemberton, shuffled into the halves in Daley’s absence, delivering a perfectly weighted grubber into the path of AJ Towse to ground his 18th try of the season into the left corner.

Harris’ missed conversion set up a tense final quarter of an hour, but with Bradford increasingly rattled by decisions not falling in their favour, mistakes crept into their game in two devastating minutes.

First, Lilley’s goal-line drop-out found touch, Harris extending the Knights’ lead to four after converting the resultant penalty with ease.

The Bulls then saw their short restart fail to pay dividends, Fitzsimmons crashing over beneath the posts from close range with just over a minute remaining on the clock before Harris added gloss to the scoreline on the hooter.

York Press: Prop Conor Fitzsimmons made sure of victory for York after crashing over with just over a minute left to play.Prop Conor Fitzsimmons made sure of victory for York after crashing over with just over a minute left to play. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

An outstanding victory from Henderson’s side that keeps them still firmly in with a chance of the play-offs, despite some results not going their way, and which puts an added impetus on next Monday’s crucial home clash with Batley Bulldogs (7:45pm).

BRADFORD BULLS: Wynne, Tindall, Arundel, Gill, Foggin-Johnston, Holmes, Lilley, Lawrence, Flanagan Snr, Doro, Butler, Wallace, Baitieri.

INTERCHANGES: Jowitt, Appo, Scurr, England.

TRIES: Wynne (15)

GOALS: Lilley 3/3

YORK KNIGHTS: Harrison, Pratt, Dee, Clarkson, Towse, Daley, Harris, Santi, Jubb, Ta’ai, Field, Kirmond, Thompson.

INTERCHANGES: Pauli, Fitzsimmons, Pemberton, Michael.

TRIES: Harrison (12), Towse (63), Fitzsimmons (78)

GOALS: Harris 4/5

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


YORK’S STAR MAN: Myles Harrison. The young full-back was under immense pressure from the Bulls’ kick chase but stood up to it well, especially after taking that early knock.

REFEREE: Scott Mikalauskas