After their victory at Bradford in July, just points difference separated York City Knights from the Bulls in the quest for Betfred League One promotion – until this afternoon.
As York blew away long-time rivals Hunslet, Bradford were succumbing to their third defeat of the season, their second to visiting Cumbrians Workington who, under the stewardship of former Bull Leon Pryce, left Odsal with the two points after a 24-18 victory. Despite conceding the first try to Town’s Sam Forrester, the Bulls were ahead after 21 minutes as Dane Chisholm crossed after Elliot Minchella’s effort, Jordan Lilley converting Chisholm’s after the replacing the Bradford number seven on kicking duties. Workington centre Elliot Miller, though, levelled matters shortly before the half-time hooter and, following Carl Forber’s conversion, the Cumbrians had a two point lead going into the sheds.
In a tight affair, the first points of the second half came courtesy of second-rower Matt Garside as the Bulls regained their lead. Lilley missed the conversion but did score two penalties shortly after the hour mark to give Bradford an 18-12 lead – one which head coach John Kear admitted after the match that they should have used to close the game out. However, that was to be the end of the Bulls’ scoring and Workington hit back when star half back Jamie Doran crossed and, with Forber’s conversion crossing, the scores were level with fourteen minutes left on the clock.
Stevie Scholey of the visitors joined Bradford hooker George Flanagan in being sent to the sin-bin and, with just over ten minutes left, it was twelve against twelve. Former Super League hooker Sean Penkywicz was then able, with minutes left on the clock, to score after a period of Bradford pressure and, with Forber’s fourth conversion from four, the Cumbrians had completed the double over the West Yorkshiremen.
That result opened the door for York to not only go top but to do so on points. As their rivals Hunslet arrived in the Minster city, the belief was that there it could well be a tight encounter. What followed was nothing of the sort and, at half-time, James Ford’s Knights had raced into a 26-0 lead with tries from Graeme Horne, Will Oakes, Ben Cockayne and Jack Ormondroyd – coupled with five Connor Robinson goals – giving them their supremely healthy lead at the interval. Ford had mentioned in the build up that York’s fans would have to be at their best to out-sing Hunslet’s following but his team ensured that the travellers didn’t have too much to shout about. Their sole try came early in the second half as Tommy Brierley – a former Knight – crossed after Matty Marsh had extended the hosts’ lead at Bootham Crescent. Thereafter, Ash Robson and Robinson scored two further tries for York and, with three second half goals from the latter, the Knights had a 46-6 victory in their back pocket.
Sitting top on forty points from twenty two matches, the Knights also hold a superior points difference to Bradford with four games left in the campaign. It should be noted, however, that the Bulls do still have to go to West Wales Raiders, a match which should see Bradford wipe out York’s points difference advantage. However, with both teams close on points difference, this afternoon’s huge results see a shift in pressure – for the first time this season, York are now the hunted. Bradford will be chasing them down and it promises to be an enthralling end to the third tier season.
While the rugby league world in the northern hemisphere has a break for the Challenge Cup final next weekend, Bradford host Keighley in a fortnight’s time as they aim to recover from this defeat. As for York? They have to go to Workington.