South Wales Ironmen: Sunday 12th March - League 1
Report Courtesy of Peter Martini and The York Press
YORK City Knights are off the mark in Kingstone Press League One – but not without an almighty fright.
James Ford’s men led minnows South Wales Ironmen 26-10 just after half-time and the game should have been up.
But to say they made heavy work of the second period is an understatement as individual errors and anxiety, particularly in the back line, allowed the visitors to get back to 26-24 before the hooter came as a blessed relief.
South Wales, rebranded this year as the Ironmen, are maybe not the easy-beats of recent seasons – and scorelines elsewhere, not least Gloucestershire All Golds beating Keighley, suggest these expansion clubs are getting stronger. But, in truth, they will still end up at or near the bottom and, perhaps more than any other match hitherto this year, this York performance highlighted the flaws in this hastily-built new side.
It was the old heads that effectively got them over the line – the likes of skipper Ed Smith, Tim Spears, big new signing Andy Ellis and most notably the barnstorming Adam Robinson – but, as Ford said, the young guns need to learn lessons soon if this team are to trouble the top eight, never mind the play-offs.
The defects of last week’s loss at Barrow were mainly absent as the Knights, especially in the first half, ran hard and won the contacts to enable them to play a bit – and ultimately build their decisive lead – but it was decision-making and execution, especially in the second, which was lacking.
The loss to a thigh strain of full-back Ash Robson was also keenly felt, as veteran Ironmen half-back Paul Emanuelli played on the Knights’ shakiness under high kicks thereafter to increase the nervousness in the stands.
All that stress looked unlikely 10 minutes in after two tries from left-winger Dee Foggin-Johnston.
Harry Tyson-Wilson’s hurried cut-out pass gave him the first, while the second involved Joe Batchelor as the middle man at centre.
South Wales soon struck back, however, after Nev Morrison fumbled the restart.
Foggin-Johnston’s thumping tackle denied Yannic Parker but as the crowd were still cheering that, full-back Andy Gay – a key creative force for the Ironmen – danced past the York winger, no-one else covering the corner.
Ford had again selected the same back seven.
Aside that good start, the septet might not get many more opportunities, with winger Tommy Saxton now fit and fellow veteran Jonny Presley surely an option at half-back.
There were three changes in the forwards, with Ellis replacing Pat Smith (ribs) at hooker, George Milton debuting on dual-reg from Hull KR and big Bobby Tyson-Wilson recalled, Liam Thompson and on-loan Kieran Moran making way.
The most notable, of course, was the introduction of Ellis, and his control and talk from dummy-half was clear from the off.
He drew up a good understanding with his pack, too, not least fellow old hands Adam Robinson and former Featherstone team-mate Spears.
Ellis and Robinson combined to cut short the Ironmen’s joy.
They saw a hole close to marker and the hooker’s pass had the prop rampaging upfield like a wildebeest.
Full-back Gay held him up but he got the offload out and Tommy Brierley, like a slippery eel, beat the remaining defenders. Harry Tyson-Wilson added the first of his three conversions.
Robinson was soon held up after another forceful run, while Ellis went close from dummy-half before Batchelor beat his first man but fumbled the ball while beating the second with the try-line at his nervy.
But then the lead did go up – Ellis with a debut try.
Emanuelli looked to shepherd the 32-year-old into another tackler but that defender wasn’t there and Ellis simply arced home.
In past years, South Wales would have crumbled in the face of further pressure but the Knights could not get through their goal-line defence again and instead it was the visitors who got the last try of the half to cut the deficit to 20-10.
Impressive sub prop Chris Davies appeared to be covered but reached an arm through defenders to the whitewash – a disappointing score from the hosts’ perspective.
York nevertheless made it 26-10 just 58 seconds after the resumption.
Tyson-Wilson’s nice little chip over the defensive line bounced awkwardly out of Gay’s reached, and the York scrum-half hacked on in goal and touched down after Ironmen winger Jamie Stringer fumbled under pressure.
Emanuelli’s normally reliable kicking game had not been great for the visitors but his bomb set up a quick riposte.
Brierley – mixing a few excellent returns with uncertainty, after switching to full-back – leapt highest but fumbled it straight to Gay who sprinted home.
Then the Ironmen built more pressure and scored again, two offloads seeing them somehow avoid touch, Christian Roets crossing.
Ford’s response was to bring Ellis and Robinson back on – but it was soon 26-24.
York had a penalty at one end but Joe Porter dropped the ball and Lewis Reece brushed off Ellis as he ran to the other. Emanuelli added his second goal – three misses proving crucial in the final reckoning.
The game was now anybody’s, York tested mentally more so than physically.
Foggin-Johnston was within inches of a hat-trick try from Tyson-Wilson’s chip while Ronan Dixon thought he had scored but fumbled when crashing over.
A couple of better-timed passes could have paid dividends too.
But, with such shakiness at the back, they were grateful for a couple of unforced Ironmen errors and ultimately the final hooter.