Knights break Bulls hearts in last gasp thriller: Sunday 21st July - Betfred Championship
The width of a post at either end of the pitch was all that separated York City Knights and Bradford Bulls in yet another Betfred Championship thriller played out in front of over four thousand fans at Bootham Crescent yesterday.
Both teams headed into the game in good form with identical records of four wins and a draw from their last five league games, indicating that we were in for a great game – and it certainly lived up to the pre-match hype.
Knights Head Coach James Ford recalled captain Tim Spears after his one match suspension served in the draw at Batley last week, but was dealt a late blow as Graeme Horne and Matty Marsh were late withdrawals. Will Oakes and Sam Scott also returned.
The visiting Bulls got off to the best possible start when scoring after just two minutes, as full back Joe Brown stretched the Knights defence to create space for Ethan Ryan to score a trademark acrobatic finish on the left edge. Joe Keyes missed the touchline conversion.
York worked their way into the game and gained the upper hand for the next 20 minutes and, after Marcus Stock had a try rightly ruled out for a double movement, they finally got on the scoreboard with a Connor Robinson penalty for holding down.
Joe Keys missed a relatively straightforward penalty goal attempt soon after – his 33% success rate for the afternoon ultimately proving crucial – and theKnights rode their luck further when winger Ryan carelessly put his foot in touch when in the act of scoring under relatively little pressure.
York took the lead on the half hour mark with another slice of luck – Ryan completed a nightmare two minutes when dropping the ball in his own in-goal area, allowing Will Oakes to touch down. Robinson converted for an 8-4 lead.
Prop Ronan Dixon was sin-binned for use of an elbow in the tackle in the 31st minute, and soon followed a crucial moment in the game. Bradford again threatened with an attack to the left edge and with a near certain try scoring 2 on 1 situation, Oakes picked off the pass to race 90 metres in front of an ecstatic main stand to score a sensational effort. Robinson again goaled to extend the lead to 14-4.
The Bulls responded well as York struggled to handle half back Joe Keys, who dragged enough defenders out of the line to send Ryan cutting back on the inside to score. Keys missed the conversion and the score was 14-8 as the teams headed into the sheds for a much needed rest.
Knights half back Connor Robinson – celebrating signing a new deal this week – sensed how close the game was going to be and went for a drop goal at the end of the first set of the second half, but pulled his effort wide.
Bradford were allowed to ramp up the pressure as York struggled to complete their sets, and eventually equalised in the 55th minute. Jordan Lilley produced an inch perfect kick to the corner, and Ryan spectacularly out-leaped Oakes to complete his hat-trick. Keys added his first of only two conversions of the day from the touch line.
York regained control of the game with a quickfire double from winger Perry Whiteley around the hour mark. The first was an excellent powerful finish despite the attentions of three Bradford defenders, before out-jumping Jy Hitchcox to score a second try just three minutes later. Robinson converted the second touch-line attempt and the Knights led 24-14.
The former Super League and World Club Champions refused to lie down though, and Ross Oakes span out of a tackle to score. Keys added the extras and the score was 24-20 with ten minutes remaining.
Bradford equalised for a second time in the 73rd minute – after winning a penalty for obstruction on a kick chaser deep in the Knights half, the ball was well worked to the right for Hitchcox to finish by the corner post to set up another grandstand finish between these recent rivals.
Lilley was first up to attempt a match winning drop goal, his fine effort from 45 metres out bounced back off the post allowing Jason Bass to clear York’s lines and away from danger. Ryan spilled the spiral kick off the back of that resulting set and the Knights had one chance with less than 60 seconds on the clock. The ball went out to Connor Robinson, who caught the Bulls onrushing defenders out by quickly moved the ball on to Liam Harris, who’s drop goal went in off the post, to the delight of the home fans. They certainly brought the noise!
The Knights will now enjoy a much needed week off before attentions turn to the final stretch of Betfred Championship regular season action, starting with a tough tie at Barrow Raiders on Sunday 4th August. Call the office now on 01904 876527 to book your place on the York Pullman supporter’s bus for just £15!
Knights: Bass, W Oakes, Salter, C Scott, Whiteley, Harris, Robinson, Teanby, Jubb, Stock, S Scott, Jordan-Roberts, Spears. Subs (all used): Brining, Dixon, Blagbrough, Baldwinson.
Tries: Will Oakes (29, 33), Whiteley (58, 62).
Goals: Robinson (4/5)
Drop goal: Harris (79).
Sin-bin: Dixon (31).
Bradford: Brown, Hitchcox, Webster, R Oakes, Ryan, Keyes, Lilley, Crossley, Wildie, Hallas, Storton, Farrell, Minchella. Subs (all used): Evans, Flanagan, Wood, Peltier.
Tries: Ryan (3, 37, 55), Ross Oakes (70), Hitchcox (73).
Goals: Keyes (2/6).
Isaac Poad Man of the Match: Perry Whiteley