Knights enjoy Festive blow out at Bradford: Wednesday 26th December - Pre-Season
Bradford Bulls gained some sort of revenge for losing out on the 2018 League One crown – but their victory didn’t overly tarnish York City Knights’ New Year.
York boss James Ford had suggested that a substandard show in this first outing of pre-season could leave his squad “miserable for the rest of our Christmas period” but, aside the 20-12 defeat, he would have left reasonably pleased with his players’ contribution.
York had pipped Bradford to the third-tier title in September, a stunning 30-28 victory at Odsal in July being key to that success. Seemingly still smarting from that, the Bulls’ marketeers dubbed this Boxing Day rematch the “Grand Final that never happened”.
There was never going to be such intensity or importance, of course, and the result never as significant. Indeed, disregarding the scoreline, both teams could take positives, with York and their somewhat experimental team cheered by winning the second half 12-0 when a heavier defeat had looked possible.
Neither team were at full strength.
Bradford’s recent internationals, Ethan Ryan, Ross Peltier, Joe Keyes and Gregg McNally, who all had European Championship call-ups, were left on the sidelines, as were Jake Webster and Rhys Evans, the big new signings from Castleford and Leigh respectively. Vice-captain Steve Crossley is also in rehab after surgery.
Oliver Wilson, who shone in England Academy’s historic success against the feted Australian Schoolboys, ironically under Ford – who was England’s assistant-coach for that recent series – was also rested.
Former Knights winger Dee Foggin-Johnston – York’s top-scorer in 2017 before making a surprise switch to Hunslet – had a decent outing on the wing on his Bulls bow.
Connor Farrell, the arrival from Featherstone and one of rugby’s famous Farrell clan, and Jon Magrin, back at Bradford from Sheffield Eagles, were other debutants.
Big names such as Jy Hitchcox, Ashley Gibson, playmaker Dane Chisholm and Mikey Wood, who has made his loan from Huddersfield permanent, all started too.
York for their part were without first-choice quintet Tim Spears (calf), Harry Carter (hand), Sam Scott (groin), Ben Cockayne and Graeme Horne. Second-row Mike Kelly was also a late withdrawal.
Bradford used eight subs, too, including several from their academy, and York six, including trialists in ex-Bulls packman Dave Petersen and amateur starlet Reece Rushworth. Petersen was busy at both hooker and loose-forward, although Rushworth’s second-half stint was curtailed by a cut to the head.
Just how much can be read into this result, therefore, is unclear. More will be learnt in the pre-season Yorkshire Cup before the big kick-off in February, although one early lesson for York’s class of 2019 is not to concede penalties – with all four of Bradford’s tries coming on the back of them.
The Bulls took an eighth minute lead on the back of the first free-kick as Ross Oakes brushed off Perry Whiteley all too easily and got over. Centre Whiteley did okay barring that miss.
After a second penalty, it became 10-0 as a neat kick by impressive young half-back Rowan Milnes was touched down by Farrell, with Chisholm converting.
In between times, York had had a neat move down the right led by young full-back Matt Chilton but winger Ash Robson was just dragged into touch seven metres out.
Prop Jack Teanby was probably the pick of York’s new boys in the first half. Fellow incomers Liam Salter, the former Hull KR centre, and ex-Hemel loose-forward Marcus Stock also started, while Jack Blagbrough, Jason Bass and young Kevin Brown made bows off the bench. Bass looked busy on his second-half introduction.
The visitors had a Will Jubb try rightly ruled out after the ball was dropped at the sticks.
The next time they went close, Chisholm picked off a grubber and raced upfield, caught by winger Judah Mazive around half-way. A penalty soon followed and Wood snuck over from a short flat ball near the posts.
The Knights had a second try ruled out – this one questionably – as Connor Robinson’s scoring pass to Ronan Dixon was called forward.
By this point, one-time Bulls squadman Petersen had replaced Jubb at hooker. He did well enough but, with Carter sidelined and Andy Ellis of course retired, the Knights do need reinforcements in this position, likewise at prop where they are short on numbers if not quality – Dixon underlining that quality with a good showing.
Bradford’s fourth try, which made it 20-0 on the half-time hooter, also followed a penalty, Chisholm’s perfect kick seeing winger Hitchcox – perhaps offside – catch and dive over in one movement.
The Bulls had received a first-half blow, though, when sub Evan Hodgson, not long after coming on, was helped off.
York got on the scoreboard five minutes into the second half.
Threequarter Bass, after a strong run, and Robinson were held up over the whitewash but, on the last tackle, Dixon simply ran over full-back Brandon Pickersgill to score, Robinson goaling.
Immediately, a surprise Robinson offload caught the defence napping and Robson, now at full-back, picked up smartly and reached the whitewash. Robinson goaled.
Kear soon tried to restore order by throwing senior players back on but York stayed on top, Robinson’s kick forcing a dropout.
Bradford got a foothold back in proceedings, however, and perhaps finished slightly the stronger.
Bulls: Pickersgill, Foggin-Johnston, Oakes, Hitchcox, Milnes, Chisholm, Kirk, Hallas, Bustin, Farrell, Storton, Wood. Subs (all used): Magrin, Foster, Lilley, Hodgson, Culling, Doyle, Stephenson, Rickett.
Tries: Oakes 8; Farrell 14; Wood 29; Hitchcox 40.
Goals: Chisholm 14, 29.
Knights: Chilton, Mazive, Salter, Whiteley, Robson, Marsh, Robinson, Dixon, Jubb, Teanby, Jordan-Roberts, Hey, Stock. Subs: Bass, Blagbrough, Brown, Peterson, Porter, Rushworth.
Tries: Dixon 45; Robson 48.
Goals: Robinson 45, 48.
Referee: Liam Moore
Attendance: 2,000 est