Promising signs for the Knights in LNER Community Stadium debut: Thursday 11th March - Pre-Season
A brave York City Knights were beaten 28-22 by Hull FC in their first game at the LNER Community Stadium.
The Knights were 22 points behind against the Betfred Super League contenders by the hour mark having fallen behind in the opening minutes.
But a stirring comeback saw them score three tries thereafter and only a late offside call prevented an incredible draw.
It must be said, though, that the main focus has to be on the stunning new venue that the Knights now find themselves in.
Over 10 years in the waiting and six years on from playing at local amateur grounds in League One, head coach James Ford was able to watch his side, packed full of ex-Super League talent, from a newly-built stand of an 8,500-seater stadium.
As far as on-the-field matters were concerned, the picture was not so perfect early on. Hull got off to a rapid start and, fittingly, opened the scoring through Adam Swift. York failed to deal with a trademark high kick wide from Marc Sneyd and the ex-St Helens wing pounced in the corner.
Then, down the other flank, NRL recruit Josh Reynolds put in a grubber and allowed Mane Fonua to stroll over.
Sneyd converted both tries and Hull were 12-0 ahead after just eight minutes.
At that point, some could be forgiven for thinking that a rout was on the cards but, as proven in recent seasons, York are made of stern stuff.
The Black and Whites looked certain to score after a sustained period of pressure following a drop out and a penalty, with Jake Connor and then Carlos Tuimavave both held up.
York stood strong and Brendan O’Hagan was underneath a probing kick from Reynolds.
Under the cosh with Hull dominant in territory, the Knights responded by scoring on the half-hour in a rare venture forward.
Riley Dean – one of two Knights half-backs on debut – threw a cut-out pass to send away Kieran Dixon. The winger then returned the favour by kicking back inside and Matty Marsh’s pass put Dean over for a deserved try.
Dixon added the extras to put York a score behind.
With 10 minutes of the half to go, Hull showed the class that took them to the Super League semi-finals last season with two more tries.
O’Hagan lost possession in his own half and Tuimavave punished him in the right corner.
Then came a moment of class from the highly-rated Connor. His 40/20 kick put Hull in prime position to strike and it was his pass that teed up Manu Ma’u to dive over.
Sneyd converted the latter and Hull were ahead 22-6 at the break.
Unlike the first half, it was the Knights that were the quickest out of the blocks in the second period – that despite making a raft of changes at the break.
After a late tackle on O’Hagan, a penalty put the Knights 10 metres from the Hull line. Dean almost assisted Jason Bass, who made an almighty leap, but the ball just evaded his hands.
Chances were at a premium after that early opportunity. Hull gained some momentum through the middle on 52 minutes but knocked on 10m from the posts.
Sneyd proceeded to boot the loose ball into the stands – perfectly summing up his side’s frustrations as the Knights continually forced errors.
Marsh – who was now at half-back after Dean’s departure – showed off his kicking abilities by forcing a repeat set but they could not profit, with Jordan Baldwinson unable to take O’Hagan’s short pass from close range.
On the hour, Hull managed to make the Knights pay when Chris Satae forced his way over next to the sticks and Ben McNamara – taking the kicking duties from Sneyd – easily goaled.
Again though, York were well alive in the contest. Marsh was once more involved, giving the pass to Ben Jones-Bishop, who showed some neat footwork to cross.
And the Knights were not done there. Marsh’s bomb produced a Hull handling error and Liam Salter was on hand to touch down.
Dixon converted the first but not the second and York trailed by 12 with as many minutes left.
Remarkably, the Knights bagged a third try in a now-dominant spell of 10 minutes.
This time O’Hagan created it through a grubber which Tyne Dow-Nikau finished. O’Hagan’s goal left York only one score behind against their top-flight opposition.
With just seconds left, the Knights bench were celebrating when Jack Teanby dropped on a kick that bounced off the post.
But the referee ruled him offside and the Knights’ epic comeback fell agonisingly short.
Regardless, their incredible effort should be applauded. With a week to go until the proper season starts, the Knights have gone toe-to-toe with Hull FC. Job well done.
York: Marsh, Jones-Bishop, Bass, Atkins, K Dixon, O’Hagan, Dean, R Dixon, Jubb, Teanby, Scott, Kirmond, Baldwinson.
Subs used: Salter, Brining, Stock, Green, Porter, Whiteley, Barcoe, Towse, Harrison, Washbrook, Dow-Nikau. Subs not used: Spears.
Tries: Dean (30), Jones-Bishop (65), Salter (67), Dow-Nikau (72)
Goals: Dixon (2/3), O’Hagan (1/1)
Hull FC: Connor, Swift, Tuimavave, Griffin, Fonua, Reynolds, Sneyd, Satae, Houghton, Sao, Savelio, Ma’u, Lane.
Subs (all used): Bowden, Cator, Lane, Fash, McNamara, Brown, Faraimo, Wynne, Scott, Ferreira, Hookem, Vulikijapani.
Tries: Swift (3), Fonua (8), Tuimavave (33), Ma’u (39), Sate (62)
Goals: Sneyd (2/4), McNamara (1/1)
Referee: Tom Grant
Picture C/O Touchline Pics / Stephen Gaunt