Knights leapfrog Leigh in Championship thriller: Sunday 1st September - Betfred Championship
For the second time in 2019 York City Knights edged out Leigh Centurions by a single point, winning a thrilling game 23-24 at Leigh Sports Village in Autumnal sunshine and showers to leapfrog their opponents into third place heading into the final weekend of the Betfred Championship regular season.
Head Coach James Ford made four changes to the team that beat Featherstone two weeks ago, with Liam Salter out due to the head injury suffered against Fev, and Perry Whiteley sidelined after a minor operation on a non-rugby related issue. Jack Teanby and Ronan Dixon also missed out due to not quite being 100%.
In their place came Brad Hey and Matt Chilton – making his first ever Championship appearance – with Mike Kelly and former Leigh forward Jack Blagbrough.
The opening exchanges saw a number of errors from both teams, handing a greasy ball on the slippery surface due to the occasional downpours throughout the game, and it wasn’t until the 22nd minute before York broke the deadlock. Connor Robinson’s perfectly timed pass sent Sam Scott charging through a gap in the Leigh left edge, and he tipped on perfectly for Will Oakes to score a great try in the corner. Robinson expertly added the touchline conversion for a 0-6 lead.
Leigh hit back ten minutes later after gradually building pressure deep in the Knights half, and former England international half back Kevin Brown darted over to score on debut. Ryan Brierley added the goal to draw level.
York almost immediately retook the lead in the following set when Mitch Clark was penalised for dissent while in possession, and Robinson duly kicked the penalty goal from 30 metres out.
The Centurions continued to dominate possession and territory and finally breached the Knights defence again with just seconds remaining in the first half, a quick play the ball allowed Liam Hood to take full advantage and dive over from dummy half. Brierley added the extras for a 12-8 lead heading into the sheds at the break.
Leigh continued their high intensity approach early in the second half to pin York back deep in their own half, and were rewarded with a third try to extend their lead in the 48th minute – a well placed kick from Kevin Brown saw Brierley race through to touch down. Brierley converted his own try and the Centurions lead 18-8.
The Knights refused to allow their heads to drop in the face of such unrelenting pressure, and in the next set after the restart managed to capitalise on an error in the ruck. From the resulting scrum full back and Isaac Poad Man of the Match Matty Marsh chimed in to finish superbly. Robinson added the extras to reduce the deficit to 18-14 in the 50th minute.
Back came the rain and with it back came the errors, allowing York to find their way back into the game. They drew level on the hour mark when Connor Robinson produced a sensational pass that cut out three men to find Oakes racing down the touchline to score.
As the torrential downpour subsided, Leigh forced a goal line drop out and in the resulting set Josh Woods landed a drop goal to edge the Centurions back in front.
With ten minutes remaining, York regained the lead with a well taken try, if a little fortuitous. A York pass went to ground and as Leigh scrambled to capitalise, centre Brad Hey regathered the ball and sprinted through the broken defensive line before passing to the supporting Liam Harris, who stepped Ryan Brierley to cross under the posts. Robinson added the extras and the Knights lead 19-24, and braced themselves for a ten minute onslaught.
Leigh were camped deep in Knights territory for three consecutive sets before Liam Forsyth eventually scored wide out on the right edge, but crucially the conversion attempt went wide.
York defended the final five minutes like their lives depended on it, with loose balls quickly snapped up by Sam Scott and Will Jubb, and this special team held on for yet another memorable, nail biting, victory.
The Knights now turn their attentions to the final game of this incredible Betfred Championship season, where a victory at Halifax may possibly see York finish in second place depending on results elsewhere!
As a thank you for your incredible support in 2019, we are running York Pullman supporters buses to Halifax for FREE! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, the spaces you need and a contact number, and we will get back in touch with you – spaces are limited so move fast!
Leigh: Brierley; Cox, Thornley, Forsyth, S Marsh; Brown, Woods; Douglas, Higham, Emmitt, Adamson, Thompson, Cator. Subs (all used): Hood, Paterson, Clark, Adamsom.
Tries: Brown (31), Hood (40), Brierley (48), Forsyth (75).
Goals: Brierley (3/4).
Drop goal: Woods (65).
Knights: M Marsh, Oakes, Bass, Hey, Chilton, Harris, Robinson, Baldwinson, Jubb, Horne, Porter, Scott, Spears. Subs (all used): Brining, Stock, Blagbrough, Kelly.
Tries: Oakes (20, 59), M Marsh (50), Harris (69).
Goals: Robinson (4/5).
Isaac Poad Man of the match: Matty Marsh