It was a perfect evening for a game of Rugby league, the sun was just setting over the new home of the York City Knights and York were ready to do battle with the Sheffield Eagles.
The Knights had played courageously against grand finalists Wigan Warriors last time out, with the Eagles also making easy work of Bradford in their first championship game of the season. There was some positive news ahead of kick off for the Knights. The return of a number of key players to the squad including Brendan O’hagan and Ben Jones-Bishop was very encouraging, and the games was the team’s first chance to watch new signings Joe Keyes, Lewis Peachey and Yusuf Aydin in action.
York City Knights started brightly with Sheffield conceding two penalties’ back to back, before the knights fell ten metres from the Sheffield line. Sheffield then broke at tremendous pace resulting in a try by Anthony Thackery on six minutes, making the score Sheffield six, York zero. The next ten minutes of play were much brighter for the knights who continued to put Sheffield under pressure by coming close to the line on a number of occasions, with some creative plays from Marsh and Jubb forcing a drop out from under the posts.
15 minutes into the game Marcus Stock collided heads with a fellow Knights player, he then had to be taken off the field and Adam Cuthbertson took his place. Marcus Stock has been unlucky with injuries this season but did return to the bench with his head strapped up. It was Sheffield that would enjoy most of the ball in the final third of the half, pinning York behind the line and winning three dropouts. The winger Millar proved to be tricky, but Ben Jones-Bishop dealt with the pressure well.
York continued to be pressured and it looked a sure thing that Sheffield would increase their lead. At one point, Will Jubb went down holding his head but thankfully he was able to continue. 5 minutes later he would prove vital for the Knights, as against the run of play Kiran Dixon showed his pace with a 80 metre dash for the line, falling just short. On the last tackle O’hagan linked up with Jubb, who charged over the white line. The knights were level and it was game on.
For Sheffield, Anthony Thakrey is very much at the centre of creative play and was at the centre of a move that wrong footed the knights defence, allowing him to steam over the line for his 2nd try of the game at 34 minutes. The Eagles were in fine form and gunning for the knights try line, they would score again one minute from the break with Tyler Dickson crashing over the line from 5 metres out. The results at the half were 18 – 6 to the eagles.
Second half Sheffield got under way in the second half and Paddy Burns made a tackle on James Green. However, it appeared his head was in the wrong place and the stretcher was brought out. There was a considerable hold up in play whilst he was attended to and the temperature in the stadium was dropping, with the injury looking of great concern. I hope Paddy Burns makes a speedy recovery.
York City Knights enjoyed a good position and went in at the far corner minutes after the restart. On the 5th tackle, O’hagan kicked the ball and Rob Warrency was pounced upon by Kiran Dixon. The try was not converted as Dixon skimmed just wide of the upright, making the scores 18 – 10. Moments after the next restart, Sheffield were awarded a penalty and opted to kick for the posts, making the game 20 – 10.
The Knights then started to apply pressure and forced the eagles to camp in their own half, thanks to some driving runs from Joe Porter. It was only minutes later and the knights crossed the line with a touch down from Ben Jones-Bishop, after a pass from Joe Keyes. Unfortunately, this was then disallowed for being a forward pass. Sheffield defended ferociously as York applied the pressure, Jones-Bishop was held on the line and despite Joe Keyes best efforts, the creative play down the right-hand side was denied a deserved score.
With ten minutes to play, Sheffield eagles broke clear of the line Matty Marsh had made and the eagles passed the ball forward creating a tense finish to the game. This mistake allowed the knights to make their way up the pitch with an impressive set and it was Liam Salter who eventually burst over the line to make the score 20 – 14.
York threw everything they had at Sheffield for the last five minutes of the game but were unable to find another try, the scores finished 14 to York and 20 to Sheffield. While the result was not what York would have anticipated, you have to give credit to Sheffield as they showed a lot of determination and looked well organised.
The Eagles may well surprise many teams this season if they continue to play with such creative flare. York knights had a good second half and looked dangerous throughout. They take on Swinton Lions next week and will look to build on the many positives displayed in tonight’s match.
For more coverage throughout the week, stay tuned to the drivetime show for the Knights corner every Thursday and listen to A Pain in the Grass to hear from the knights players on all the latest team news. Rob Leatham.