Knights defeated in Wembley thriller: Saturday 17th July - 1895 Cup
Featherstone Rovers 41 (22)-(10) 34 York City Knights
After everything that was thrown at the Knights, the match and the sport itself in the build up to Saturday’s AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, you could perhaps have been forgiven for thinking that the game may fail to live up to the billing of being played on the biggest sporting stage on one of the most prestigious dates in the British sporting calendar.
That, however, couldn’t be further from the truth as, despite falling to a 41-34 defeat to Featherstone Rovers, the team did the occasion, the club and themselves proud.
Against a team who had won every single Betfred Championship match so far this season – albeit one ravaged with Covid 19-enforced absences – the odds were stacked against a Knights team who were without key players Matty Marsh, Liam Salter, Ryan Atkins to name just three.
Featherstone were the team who started strongest. An early 40/20 from Dane Chisholm, so often a thorn in the Knights’ side in recent seasons, got our opponents on the front foot. Full-back Dixon, on his 200th appearance, then fumbled a Hall grubber and Featherstone made that territory count. On the last, Chisholm dummied and went on to find his way to the line under pressure from defenders including Will Jubb. Hall converted to give the West Yorkshiremen a 6-0 lead after seven minutes.
Fans may have thought the Knights would then be in for a long afternoon but James Ford’s men, making their first Wembley appearance in ninety years, hit back immediately. Mikey Lewis, back in the playing squad after returning on loan from Hull KR last week, dummied to kick right before reversing that to kick left. Ben Jones-Bishop leapt higher than the Championship’s top try-scorer Gareth Gale to ground in the corner. His celebrations in front of the Knights’ fans in the corner showed just how much the occasion meant to him and the players.
Approaching the twentieth minute, the Knights were the team in the ascendency and Tyme Dow-Nikau knocked on in the in-goal when looking to ground Mikey Lewis’ grubber kick. Ben Jones-Bishop, shortly after, was tackled into touch by Gale as he looked for his second of the afternoon.
Those missed opportunities counted for nothing, though, and Featherstone extended their lead shortly after. Perry Whiteley dropped a Nu Brown bomb and Craig Kopczcak was the beneficiary of that field position, crashing over from close range. Hall again converted to give Featherstone a 12-4 lead.
Once again, Ford’s men hit back. Marcus Stock, a player with a large number of friends and family in attendance, was initially held up before crashing over from close range after his brilliant footwork took him under the posts. Dixon added the two from bang in front.
Just before half-time, with the scores close at 12-10, Featherstone’s quality and class told with back-to-back efforts. Firstly, Rovers worked the ball from right to left with Jacob Doyle diving over in the corner for his first of the afternoon.
John Davies, in as a makeshift centre, was key in Doyle’s first and then showed his power when, after barging Jason Bass out of the way, he went through the Knights’ defensive line to draw in Dixon before passing inside to Brown who went over under the sticks. Hall added the two points to Brown’s effort and the Knights trailed 22-10 at the break.
A strong start to the second half from the Knights, though, saw Ford’s men back in the game.
First, Brining darted out of dummy-half before scanning the line and then finding his way to the line. Replays suggested he lost the ball, but the try was given and Dixon converted.
Next up, it was the turn of Hall to make a defensive clanger. Dropping Lewis’ last tackle kick under pressure from Bass and Jones-Bishop, the former picked up the loose ball off the ground to go round under the sticks to score. Dixon added another two and the scores were level just before the fiftieth minute.
The Knights’ momentum was killed, however, when Dixon and Stock couldn’t quite deal with the kick-off. A goal-line drop-out was the result and three tries in six minutes put Featherstone in firm control – all after a Hall penalty put his team ahead 24-22.
Featherstone first worked the ball left and Doyle dived over for his second try after handing off Whiteley. The impressive Brown then sent James Harrison galloping through a gap to score before Hall added another try after a great reverse pass from Brett Ferres.
The Knights, though, despite trailing and the game looking almost certain to be gone, fought back with two late efforts. Lewis, looking good on his return to the Knights, withstood Featherstone tackles to find his way to the line for an impressive solo try.
Chisholm then kicked a drop goal to extend Featherstone’s lead to thirteen points, before Whiteley scored an impressive ninety-metre interception try when the opponents had fashioned an overlap. The Knights winger outstripped the Rovers’ defence for pace and evaded Gale’s retreating tackle to go over under the sticks.
While defeated, the Knights did everyone associated with the club proud by more than playing their part in an entertaining match, one which proved a worthy curtain raiser ahead of the Betfred Challenge Cup Final.
Featherstone Rovers: Craig Hall, Gareth Gale, Josh Hardcastle, John Davies, Jacob Doyle, Nu Brown, Dane Chisholm, Craig Kopczak, Jake Sweeting, James Lockwood, James Harrison, Brett Ferres, Loui McConnell.
Interchanges: Harvey Spence, Luke Cooper, Callum Field, Joe Summers.
Tries: Dane Chisholm (8), Craig Kopczak (22), Jacob Doyle (34, 54), John Davies (36), James Harrison (58), Craig Hall (60)
Goals: Craig Hall (7/9)
Drop goal: Dane Chisholm (77)
York City Knights: Kieran Dixon, Ben Jones-Bishop, Tyme Dow-Nikau, Jason Bass, Perry Whiteley, Mikey Lewis, Danny Washbrook, Ronan Dixon, Will Jubb, Jack Teanby, Chris Clarkson, Danny Kirmond, Tim Spears.
Interchanges: Brining, Stock, Cuthbertson, Scott.
Tries: Ben Jones-Bishop (11), Marcus Stock (27), Kriss Brining (44), Jason Bass (48), Mikey Lewis (72), Perry Whiteley (78)
Goals: Kieran Dixon (4/5), Mikey Lewis (1/1)
Man of the Match in partnership with Burflex Scaffolding: Mikey Lewis – Trade Cars 4 U