York City Knights went down 28-6 against newly promoted Super League side Hull KR in Ben Cockayne’s testimonial match at a bitterly cold KCOM Craven Park yesterday, but will take plenty of positives from the afternoon.
Tim Sheens fielded a strong starting 13 featuring plenty of top flight and international experience – including a debut for Leeds legend Danny McGuire – and soon got into the groove, opening the scoring after just six minutes, Liam Salter grounding after good play down the right edge.
The Knights were dealt a blow with prop Adam Robinson pulling out shortly before kick off due to illness, however the forwards still held their own, ably led by Graeme Horne on debut and Andy Ellis in his first appearance of the year.
It was Rovers who extended their lead after 20 minutes though, as York conceded a penalty while defending on their line, and Tommy Lee sent Robbie Mulhern crashing over from the tap. Ryan Shaw added the extras for a 10-0 lead.
Mose Masoe and Jordan Walne gave Rovers momentum with some big runs that had the Knights scrambling, and Danny Addy went close from dummy-half. A quick play the ball allowed a lean looking Mose Masoe to power over on the next play after 30 minutes.
Danny Addy grabbed Rovers’ fourth try of the game just four minutes later when French trialist Nabil Djalout jumped highest for a McGuire attacking kick, batting the ball back for Addy to touch down for a 22-0 lead which they took into half time.
As expected, both teams rang the changes in the second half and the pre-season encounter started to become a little disjointed.
The Knights used this to their advantage and forced repeat sets on Rovers’ line as they looked for an opening. The home defence was resolute however, and York suffered a blow when scrum-half Brad Delaney – who was impressive up to that point – was stretchered off after being knocked-out. A lengthy stoppage thankfully just precaution.
The Knights continued to try and play an expansive brand of rugby league, and Graeme Horne and Will Jubb opened up their former club through the middle, before a crunching tackle from Matty Marsh on Ben Cockayne promptly halted the attack much to the delight of the 3,000+ home crowd.
York continued to grow in confidence and were starting to enjoy more attacking opportunities, only for the ball to go to ground allowing Rovers to launch an immediate counter attack – Kieren Moss raced 40 meters before being held just short, and Marsh was on hand to send Addy in to score on the next play. Chris Atkin converted for a 28-0 lead.
Addy broke away straight from the restart and offloaded to Atkin who was clear, but a brilliant chase from Connor Robinson saw him pull off an outstanding last-ditch tackle at the corner to deny him. Fitness levels certainly not an issue for James Ford’s men.
Fittingly, the final word went to York, and the testimonial man. Harry Carter crossed with a classic dummy-half try from close range, allowing testimonial man Cockayne to step up and slot the conversion.
The Knights’ challenging pre-season programme next takes them to Championship big guns Featherstone in two weeks time, as preparations ramp up for the huge League 1 round 1 game at home to Bradford Bulls on Sunday 18th February.