YORK Knights fell at the final hurdle for the second successive season, missing out on a trip to Wembley after a 28-18 defeat to Sheffield Eagles in their AB Sundecks 1895 Cup semi final.

Nonetheless, their performance was a world away from last weekend’s abject defeat to Whitehaven, and indeed had supporters on their feet at the LNER Community Stadium after they had fought back from a nightmare opening 14 minutes to only trail by four points at the break.

But it was not meant to be for the Knights, with penalties proving costly as former full-back Matty Marsh and the boot of Cory Aston eked out the visitors’ lead to an unassailable 10 points to seal their spot in the trophy-crowning match against Wakefield Trinity under the famous arch.

The Knights had started terribly, with tries from Matty Dawson-Jones and James Glover, who made the move to South Yorkshire during the off-season, seeing them race into a 10-point lead with just six minutes on the clock.

Marsh then extended their advantage before the hosts finally hit back through Charlie Severs and Tom Lineham shortly before the break.

However, after the full-back had seen another try cancelled out by interchange prop Jack Teanby, three penalties put the game out of the Knights’ reach.

MATCH RECAP: York Knights 18-28 Sheffield Eagles - 1895 Cup SF

Needing a reaction from last weekend’s defeat, Andrew Henderson rang in the changes, despite being down to the ‘bare bones’ of his squad.

Former Heworth winger AJ Towse made his first start on the wing in almost a month, seeing Lineham moved to partner Jimmy Keinhorst in the centres, whilst Josh Daley was given the nod at hooker.

Italian prop Brenden Santi also returned from a calf injury suffered in the competition’s quarter final against Oldham in mid-February, whilst Severs was reinstated back into the second row after concussion.

York Press: Brenden Santi made a welcome return after a near two-month injury layoff.Brenden Santi made a welcome return after a near two-month injury layoff. (Image: Alan Milner/Milner Creative/York RLFC)

Sheffield boss Mark Aston’s claims of a near clean bill of health were well-evidenced, with Connor Bower the only absentee from a first-choice starting 13.

Henderson’s side could hardly have made a worse start to proceedings, conceding the game’s first penalty with less than a minute on the clock for a ball strip on Glover.

And Sheffield duly made them pay, Marsh picking up Aston’s loose offload from the floor to feed Dawson-Jones, who surged across into the left corner.

Aston, making his 200th career appearance, was well wide from the tee, but made no mistake from his next opportunity five minutes later.

Again, the Knights’ discipline proved costly, as a penalty for offside on their 20-metre line saw Aston grubber, their defence seemingly standing still as Glover reached out a hand to touch down into the same corner against his former club.

Vila Halafihi fielded Dagger’s resultant kick-off with one foot over the line, handing the hosts a goal-line drop-out, but after the impressive Ukuma Ta’ai had been brought down just short, Connor Bailey was wrapped up on the last.

Instead, the Knights found themselves further behind, with the field position from a late shot on Joel Farrell allowing ex-Knight Anthony Thackeray to send a reverse chip back infield for Marsh to win the foot race and touch down next to the posts.

Indeed it took until the 17th minute for the Knights to see a decision by referee Scott Mikalauskas fall in their favour, but they could not capitalise on a penalty for offside, nor another for a high tackle 10-metres from the line, as Dagger’s pass to Towse flew into touch.

But York did bring themselves onto the scoreboard shortly after the half’s mid-point, Hingano sidestepping past Eddie Battye and breaking through the Sheffield line before offloading to the onrushing Severs, who hit the post, but still managed to ground the ball.

York Press: Charlie Severs was on the scoresheet as the Knights twice closed the gap in the first half.Charlie Severs was on the scoresheet as the Knights twice closed the gap in the first half. (Image: Alan Milner/Milner Creative/York RLFC)

The Knights came close to extending that lead in the minutes that followed, but both Conor Fitzsimmons and Dagger were held up before Liam Harris’ chip almost fell kindly for the onrushing Joe Brown, but Sheffield survived.

Hingano’s excellent 40/20 set up another opportunity seven minutes before the break, but Mikalauskas called a knock-on against Harris as he collected a grubber that had come back off an Eagles defender.

But Henderson’s side were not to be denied again before the break, with their captain instrumental in keeping the ball alive from his grubber into the right corner, flicking a pass back inside for Lineham to charge unchallenged across the whitewash.

Dagger expertly converted from the touchline to reduce the once 16-point deficit to four at the break.

The Knights looked to carry that momentum into the second half, with the impressive Daley pinching the ball from Thackeray before they won a six-again inside Sheffield’s 10-metre line, but an error from the next play thwarted their momentum.

Instead, a Sheffield mistake saw them survive building pressure on their own defence after Lineham had conceded a goal-line drop-out.

But it wasn’t long before the Eagles eked out their advantage with a try made in York, Aston’s cut-out pass freeing Glover on the left edge, who sent the ball back inside for Marsh to run 25 metres to touch down next to the posts.

York though continued to see chances come their way, with the pressure from consecutive penalties and another goal-line drop-out ultimately telling on the Sheffield defence with 55 minutes played.

Interchange Teanby was the first to Harris’ neat flicked kick to leave Dagger with the simplest of conversions, again bringing the scores within four.

York Press: Jack Teanby was also among those celebrating after being the unlikely first reactor to a kick.Jack Teanby was also among those celebrating after being the unlikely first reactor to a kick. (Image: Alan Milner/Milner Creative/York RLFC)

Aston was quick to call for the tee after consecutive penalties for interference and offside left him with a simple effort from 15 metres, adding another two points to the scoreboard on his milestone appearance.

York were though perhaps unlucky to see a Bailey effort chalked off shortly after the hour, the second-rower collecting Dagger’s flick pass to score into the right corner, but Mikalauskas ruled the ball had gone forward.

That could have potentially brought Henderson’s side back onto level terms, but their ill-discipline instead allowed Aston to slot over another two points after they had been penalised for offside.

Despite the game slipping from their grasp, the Knights continued to battle, with Ta’ai held up after a dart beneath the posts that saw him later leave the field for a HIA.

But Aston put the icing on the Wembley cake with just seconds remaining with another penalty after a high tackle on Farrell, ending the Knights’ Cup run in the semi-finals for a second consecutive season.

The Knights will hope to reinvigorate their Betfred Championship season when they host fellow strugglers Halifax Panthers on Sunday (3pm).

YORK KNIGHTS: Dagger, Brown, Keinhorst, Lineham, Towse, Hingano, Harris, Ta’ai, Daley, Santi, Severs, Bailey, Thompson.

INTERCHANGES: Fitzsimmons, Teanby, Michael, Pemberton

TRIES: Severs (22), Lineham (37), Teanby (54)

GOALS: Dagger 3/3

SHEFFIELD EAGLES: Marsh, Jones-Bishop, Welham, Dawson-Jones, Aston, Thackeray, Battye, Halafihi, Dickinson, Foster, Farrell, Gwaze

INTERCHANGES: Murphy, Wood, Roberts, Sene-Lefao

TRIES: Dawson-Jones (2), Glover (6), Marsh (14, 48)

GOALS: Aston 6/7

POINTS SEQUENCE: 0-4, 0-8, 0-10, 0-14, 0-16, 4-16, 6-16, 1o-16, 12-16, 12-20, 12-22, 16-22, 18-22, 18-24, 18-26, 18-28.

HALF TIME: 12-16

YORK’S STAR MAN: Josh Daley. The Australian hooker’s efforts could not be faulted, both in attack and defence.

REFEREE: Scott Mikalauskas