A LAST-GASP Nikau Williams try secured York Knights’ progression to the Fourth Round of the Betfred Challenge Cup with a dramatic 14-8 victory at Dewsbury Rams in front of The Sportsman cameras.

The half-back struck from Oli Field’s offload two minutes from time to complete a second-half turnaround for Andrew Henderson’s side, whose reward is a repeat of last season’s Fourth Round tie at home to Sheffield Eagles in a fortnight.

A much-changed Knights were firmly second best against their newly-promoted hosts during the first half, and were made to pay for their ill-discipline on the heavy pitch with a six-point deficit at the break.

But whilst they were improved after the interval, it took an outstanding length of the field try-saving tackle from Jordan Thompson to prevent Dewsbury from their own late winner before the Knights turned the game on its head in dramatic fashion late on.

York Press: Half-back Nikau Williams scored the winning try for the Knights with just two minutes left to play.Half-back Nikau Williams scored the winning try for the Knights with just two minutes left to play. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

Henderson promised rotation for the match, which he still sees as part of his pre-season, and his youthful side showed a host of changes from last weekend’s defeat to Wakefield Trinity.

Alex Donaghy and Francis Coggle were handed their Knights debuts at full-back and on the wing respectively, whilst Taylor Pemberton started at half-back for the first time.

Former Hull KR youngster Harvey Reynolds and Brad Ward were given their first starts of the season, with Connor Bailey moving back into the centres alongside Myles Harrison, whilst hooker Josh Daley returned from a PCL knee injury to take his place on the bench. 

MATCH RECAP: Dewsbury Rams 8-14 York Knights - Challenge Cup

The Knights looked nervy from the outset, with Williams launching his kick on the last into touch from their first set of the match before they were penalised for offside, but the Rams could not take advantage, with Callum Turner watching on as his offload flew into touch.

Coggle superbly denied Bailey O’Connor from scoring the first points of the afternoon from close range after a play the ball error as York’s ill-discipline continued, and they were again left breathing a sigh of relief after poor handling saw Dewsbury left frustrated from a penalty on the 10-metre line.

But the Rams were guilty of giving away opportunities at a rate of knots themselves, as an error and consecutive penalties opened up the chance for the Knights to break the deadlock against the run of play with 18 minutes gone, Pemberton making no mistake from the tee to slot over the first two points of the afternoon.

But York’s lead lasted a mere four minutes, with Williams floating another kick out of play before they coughed up a penalty for a high tackle, with Turner bringing his side level from the tee.

Henderson made his first changes in the aftermath, with Brenden Santi and Conor Fitzsimmons introduced for Jack Teanby and Ukuma Ta’ai, but their mistakes continued, an offside again opening up the opportunity for Dewsbury to attack.

And that was a gift that the hosts took with both hands, as after some neat passes along the line, O’Connor found ex-Knights winger Perry Whiteley, who dived across into the left corner to put the hosts in front for the first time.

Daley and Fitzsimmons both made errors close to the line as the Knights looked to respond, but Reynolds could not convert their best attempt to cut the deficit, the young back-rower knocking on as he looked to ground Pemberton’s grubber.

Instead, Dewsbury extended their lead by a further two points after winning a penalty from the game’s first drop-out, giving themselves a six-point advantage at the interval.

Having been handed a few home truths at half-time, the Knights came out far better after the break, with both Thompson and Daley held up as they looked to bring some early points onto the scoreboard.

But the tight pitch dimensions made going around the home defence near impossible, as Ward and Coggle found out as they were both bundled into touch in quick succession.

However, Dewsbury’s ill-discipline continued, with the pressure of a six-again and a penalty close to their line telling as Field collected Williams’ pass before dancing his way past two defenders and barging across the whitewash to the left of the posts just after the hour mark.

Pemberton crucially nailed the conversion to bring the Knights onto level terms at eight apiece.

York Press: Taylor Pemberton landed all three of his attempts from the tee.Taylor Pemberton landed all three of his attempts from the tee. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

The Rams threatened to hit back from the restart as O’Connor skipped through the tackles of Williams and Teanby to race away almost the full length of the pitch before offloading to the supporting Lewis Carr, but Thompson was able to hack him down inches short of the line.

That looked to have proved crucial when the Knights were handed possession back from their own kick a minute later, but some staunch try-line defence kept them out.

And another chance passed the visitors by when Field forced an error in front of the posts, but Donaghy was bundled into touch in the first tackle.

Turner was left ruing the chance not to go for a drop-goal as Dewsbury made one last foray upfield, but it was the Knights’ day in West Yorkshire, with Field somehow managing to offload to Williams as he was tackled, giving the former Newcastle half-back the simplest of finishes underneath the posts with two minutes left to play.

Pemberton’s third successful kick completed the Knights’ turnaround, sealing progression for Henderson’s side, as they join amateurs York Acorn in the Fourth Round in two weeks’ time.

DEWSBURY RAMS: O’Connor, Whiteley, Greensmith, Walker, Carr, Hookem, Turner, Beckett, Davies, Walker, Graham, Dawson, Collinson.

INTERCHANGES: Field, Hird, Dixon, Russell.

TRIES: Whiteley (26)

GOALS: Turner 2/3

YORK KNIGHTS: Donaghy, Ward, Bailey, Harrison, Coggle, Pemberton, Williams, Ta’ai, Jubb, Teanby, Field, Reynolds, Thompson.

INTERCHANGES: Fitzsimmons, Santi, Daley, Price.

TRIES: Field (62), Williams (78)

GOALS: Pemberton 3/3

POINTS SEQUENCE: 0-2, 2-2, 6-2, 8-2, 8-6, 8-8, 8-12, 8-14.


YORK’S STAR MAN: Jordan Thompson. An industrious performance as ever from the loose forward, with his outrageous try-saving tackle undoubtedly proving crucial in the Knights’ triumph. A mention too to Oli Field, who scored the equalising try before setting up Williams’ winner.

REFEREE: Mike Smaill