Strong second-half not enough as Knights fall to defeat: Sunday 4th July - Betfred Championship

Published: 4 July, 2021 - 6:59 pm

An exhilarating second-half fightback from York City Knights wasn’t quite enough to get the two Betfred Championship points this afternoon as we fell to a 26-28 defeat to Newcastle Thunder at the LNER Community Stadium.

After a disappointing performance last weekend against Whitehaven, the Knights turned in a much-improved showing to come back from 2-22 down early in the second half but Alex Clegg’s late try for the visitors was to prove just too much to come back from.

The Knights are doing it tough at the moment with injuries, none more so than in the half-backs and this afternoon saw second-rower Chris Clarkson and winger Ben Jones-Bishop line up in the pivots with no recognised halves available for selection.

Winger Perry Whiteley also came back into the team after a brief loan spell with Featherstone Rovers with Joe Porter and Ronan Dixon also returning. Matty Marsh missed out, as did Jordan Baldwinson with loanees Tyla Hepi and Jamie Ellis returning to their parent clubs this week.

It was the Knights who scored the first points of the match with Kieran Dixon, impressive throughout at full-back, kicking an early penalty to break the deadlock.

Newcastle, though, would score the only tries of the first half, the opener laid on by the power of second-rower Ukuma Taai.

A strong carry from the former Huddersfield man gave half-back Jake Shorrocks space and, after stepping through the Knights defence, was able to ground despite the best efforts of Will Jubb.

Hooker Jubb had, moments earlier, needed treatment for an arm injury.

Indiscipline from the Knights saw the visitors gain field position and the ability to build pressure but, when diving for the ball from Shorrocks’ grubber, fellow Wigan loanee Sam Halsall knocked on in the in-goal.

Halfway through the opening half, and only minutes after entering the field, forward Joe Porter went down with injury and wouldn’t return for the rest of the afternoon.

The closing stages of the first half saw the Knights under pressure on our line and, with a minute remaining, Owen Harrison crashed over from Evan Simons’ short ball with half-back Josh Woods adding another conversion to give Thunder a 2-12 lead at the break.

A strong second half from the beleaguered Knights came, but only after Newcastle scored back-to-back tries in the first five minutes. First, Woods’ last tackle kick was allowed to bounce in the Knights 30m and Newcastle were first to react. The ball was worked infield to Simons who went around the sticks to score.

The visitors then went the full length in the set straight from kick off with Alex Clegg scoring his first of the afternoon after breaking clear down the right flank. Ryan Atkins’ best efforts couldn’t stop him grounding. Woods converted the first but not the second, giving Newcastle a 2-22 lead after 45 minutes.

A comeback was needed and, with the LNER Community Stadium finding their voices and, after limited success with last tackle plays in the absence of a recognised half-back, full-back Dixon’s grubber to Atkins for the Knights first try was something to savour. The kicker converted and it was then the turn of captain Clarkson to make it back-to-back efforts.

Threatening from close range, the stand-in half-back found his way to the line to narrow the deficit further.

The Knights were on a roll and, after excellent defence stopped Danny Kirmond from making it three quickfire tries, a superb crossfield kick from Danny Washbrook was competed for by Atkins with Sam Scott the first to the loose ball to score for the home side.

Dixon’s conversion made it 20-22 and it looked like the Knights were the team more likely to win with some considerable momentum behind them.

However, it was Newcastle who would come up with a killer blow.

After Whiteley was judged to have knocked on in the tackle after excellently claiming a last tackle kick, Newcastle started a set within our 20m. Taai went close and, on the next play, a loose ball went to ground and drew the Knights defence forward. Connor Bailey’s quick thinking recovered the play and a grubber to the in goal presented Clegg with the opportunity to score his second try of the match – an opportunity he duly took.

Crucially, Woods’ touchline conversion made it an eight point ball game with ten minutes left.

Serious pressure was built thereafter by the Knights without anything to tell but, when the game looked to be up, Halsall coughed up possession within his 20m. From the resulting set, a move which involved Clarkson and Washbrook worked the ball right before Dixon, chiming into the line from full-back, fired a bullet pass to winger Whiteley.

The Knights’ number 22 went airborne to ground brilliantly under pressure and despite Thunder’s pleas for a knock on.

Dixon nailed the touchline conversion but the clock was against the Knights and the hooter ultimately sounded and the Knights couldn’t score further points.

York City Knights: Kieran Dixon, Perry Whiteley, Liam Salter, Ryan Atkins, Jason Bass, Ben Jones-Bishop, Chris Clarkson, James Green, Will Jubb, Jack Teanby, Sam Scott, Danny Kirmond, Tim Spears.

Interchanges: Ronan Dixon, Marcus Stock, Joe Porter, Danny Washbrook.

Tries: Ryan Atkins (52), Chris Clarkson (54), Sam Scott (62), Perry Whiteley (77)

Goals: Kieran Dixon (5/5)

Newcastle: Alex Donaghy, Alex Clegg, Matty Wright, Sam Halsall, Jack Johnson, Jake Shorrocks, Josh Woods, Ted Chapelhow, Evan Simons, Nathan Wilde, Connor Bailey, Ukuma Ta’ai, Kyle Trout.

Interchanges: Jay Chapelhow, Owen Harrison, Anderson, Oakley.

Tries: Jake Shorrocks (14), Owen Harrison (39), Evan Simons (42), Alex Clegg (44, 70)

Goals: Josh Woods (4/5)