YORK Knights sealed their place in the Betfred Championship play-offs following a 31-18 victory at Barrow Raiders on the final day of the season.

In the unlikeliest of outcomes, the Knights’ victory in Cumbria, coupled with Halifax Panthers’ defeat to relegation-threatened Swinton Lions, has confirmed their place in the top six – an achievement that has seemed firmly out of reach for the majority of the campaign.

Barrow, who themselves were battling to remain in the division ahead of the weekend’s fixtures, were resolute at a wet and windy Matt Johnson Prestige Stadium but trailed 12-0 at the interval thanks to a quick-fire double from Oli Field and Ronan Michael, and a Liam Harris penalty on the hooter.

Despite falling further behind to an outstanding AJ Towse try, the Raiders refused to go away, twice bringing the scoreline back within six points before a late drop-goal, and then a Brenden Santi try sealed the Knights’ 10th win in their last 11 games.

From thereon, all eyes turned to The Shay, where kick-off had been delayed by 15 minutes, but Swinton did just enough to hold onto their 22-12 lead in West Yorkshire to complete a fairytale afternoon for York.

RECAP: Barrow Raiders 18-31 York Knights

Henderson made one change to the Knights that claimed victory over Batley Bulldogs on Monday, with Sheffield Eagles loanee Jason Bass replacing Oli Pratt, who instead made his Betfred Super League debut for Wakefield Trinity on Friday evening.

That saw Myles Harrison move into the centres, performing solidly before being forced from the field with a leg injury midway through the first half that looks set to keep him sidelined for the play-off campaign.

Barrow’s decision not to start influential half-back Jarrod Sammut raised eyebrows before kick-off, but his side started well, seeing the better of the early play as the Knights struggled to grapple with the poor conditions.

The pace of Andrew Bulman was proving a particular threat on the left edge, the former Whitehaven winger carving out the first real opportunity of the match after Bass was trapped in-goal, but the hosts saw their opportunity break down after a forward pass from the restart.

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And Paul Crarey’s side squandered another opportunity midway through the half after Joe Brown knocked-on in his attempts to gather the ball cleanly, but Harris was able to collect a grubber on the last tackle.

During the scuffle, Harrison saw his afternoon ended by a heavy tackle, his departure seeing Pauli Pauli enter the pitch as Henderson turned to the interchange bench that had proved so influential against Batley Bulldogs on Monday evening.

And the prop made his impact felt immediately, with nobody able to lay a hand on the powerhouse as he drove forward 15 metres, setting the field position for the Knights’ opening score as from the next play, Jesse Dee found Field, who crashed across from close range to score his seventh try of the season.

Harris’ effort from the tee flew wide, but that was the only effort that he would miss on an otherwise faultless afternoon.

And the Knights were across the whitewash again just four minutes later, having collected a kick on their 40-metre line.

From that field position, Brown drove forward from full-back, somehow offloading to supporting interchange Michael, who brushed off two defenders to power his way across from 10 metres.

York Press: Irish prop Ronan Michael doubled the Knights' lead with 32 minutes played.Irish prop Ronan Michael doubled the Knights' lead with 32 minutes played. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

Back-to-back errors then presented York with an opportunity to add to that scoreline further, Harris opting to kick for the two points after Will Jubb, making his 150th Knights appearance, had drawn his marker out of the line prematurely.

It took just three minutes for the Knights to add to their 12-0 advantage after the break, as after collecting a Barrow goal-line drop-out on the 30-metre line, Dee found former Heworth youngster Towse, who scored his 20th try of the season in style with an acrobatic finish into the left corner.

Harris provided an equally stunning conversion from the touchline to extend his side’s lead to 18 points.

Another drop-out followed for the Knights five minutes later, but instead it was Barrow who worked their way back into the contest with a quick-fire double of their own.

First, Sammut’s kick was grounded by half-back Ryan Johnston after it had been missed by Brown, before Bulman sent the Barrow fans into raptures with a stunning solo try, running unchallenged from deep within his own half to cross the whitewash.

Ryan Shaw converted both tries, as with momentum shifting in their favour, his side closed the gap to six.

The Knights were next to add to the scoreboard as the pressure from a Taylor Pemberton ball steal and an offside on the 40-metre line told for the home defence, Ukuma Ta’ai fending off four defenders to cross to the right of the posts.

But Barrow refused to lie down, striking back with 14 minutes left to play, as after another handling error from York at the back, loose forward Tom Wilkinson pounced from close range, Shaw’s conversion again pegging their visitors back.

Further errors from the York backs ensured that momentum remained with the hosts, but after Pauli was held up, Harris opted for a drop-goal from the 10-metre line, edging his side closer to victory.

And a crucial two points were confirmed with four minutes remaining, as after Harris was tackled high, drives from Pauli and Santi saw the latter crash over from close range to leave the play-off race in Halifax’s hands.

York Press: Brenden Santi sealed victory for the Knights.Brenden Santi sealed victory for the Knights. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

Harris’ conversion brought the score past 30 for the Knights, with Swinton crucially hanging onto their lead at Halifax to secure the unlikeliest of play-off finishes for the visitors.

The Knights will now travel to Odsal to face Bradford Bulls in the Play off Eliminator next Sunday (6:30pm).

BARROW RAIDERS: Cresswell, Shaw, Toal, Broadbent, Bulman, Jackson, Johnston, Billington, Wood, Worthington, Emslie, Stack, Wilkinson.

INTERCHANGES: Corkill, Carter, Saunders, Sammut.

TRIES: Johnston (51), Bulman (53), Wilkinson (64)

GOALS: Shaw 3/3

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

INTERCHANGES: Pemberton, Michael, Fitzsimmons, Pauli.

TRIES: Field (28), Michael (32), Towse (43), Ta’ai (62), Santi (76)

GOALS: Harris 4/5

DROP GOALS: Harris (73)

POINTS SEQUENCE: 0-4, 0-8, 0-10, 0-12, 0-16, 0-18, 4-18, 6-18, 10-18, 12-18, 12-22, 12-24, 16-24, 18-24, 18-25, 18-29, 18-31.


YORK’S STAR MAN: Jordan Thompson. The loose forward was everywhere for the Knights, and was instrumental in gaining field position.

REFEREE: Liam Rush