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 Gav Wilson

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York City Knights 26, Hull KR 36

NOT even a defeat could spoil the carnival atmosphere at Huntington Stadium yesterday.

For despite losing to Hull Kingston Rovers in the Arriva Trains Cup East section, York City Knights proved they are already a force to be reckoned with at National League level.

The buzz around the club continued long after the final hooter in a packed-out stadium bar. Indeed, if there are still any doubters, then the fare served up yesterday - on and off the field - must have helped them catch a bit of Knight fever.

An incredible ding-dong match - the lead changed hands seven times - played out in front of full, noisy stands showed that rugby league was back in York with a bang louder than the fireworks that greeted the players.

The crowd figure was given at 3,105 people through the turnstiles, but unofficial estimates suggest anything up to 3,500 were packed into the stadium. Rovers, as usual, brought their fair share but the massive majority was behind the blues of the Minster city, and what a racket they made.

If only the Knights could have won. They didn't because of a careless first ten minutes of the second half and a tired last ten, though some controversial refereeing also had a part to play as Rovers ran in three late tries to turn a two-point deficit into a win.

Nevertheless, with Rovers expected to be a major force in National League One and among the favourites for the Arriva Trains Cup, there can't be too many complaints.

The Robins lost only 10-0 in a friendly against Super League giants Hull last week, while York's preparations were hit by the cancellation of their two pre-season friendlies.

That rustiness contributed to some of the home errors, but if they can be ironed out and if the players can gel just that bit more, then the only way is up.

As it was, they were still a match for KR despite the division difference, and even Rovers fans must admit the scoreline flattered them. Okay, to suggest the Knights deserved to win might sound biased, but there was never ten points' difference between the teams.

At least York had the privilege of scoring the first-ever points in a Knights match, Graeme Hallas booting a penalty following early pressure.

Visiting scrum-half Craig Murdock equalised from Rovers' first foray into home territory, and it was the lively number seven who was to score the day's first try after selling a clever dummy.

York bounced back, though, and after Chris Smith's break, Aussie number seven Trevor Krause - what a find he could prove to be - kicked through on the last tackle for Alex Godfrey to get the touchdown, Hallas converting.

It was fitting the Knights' first-ever try should be scored by a local boy, and the fact it was against his former club made it that much sweeter for the winger.

In fact, each one of the Knights' tries were scored by former Humberside men, with Callaghan and Scott Yeaman - among six ex-Rovers players in the side - and Smith, latterly of Hull, getting the others as the match continued to ebb and flow.

Rovers retook the lead when Murdock's grubber kick was touched down by Jimmy Walker - who got a punch from Godfrey as a reward.

But back again came York as Mark Cain's long punt on the first tackle after the scrum - a ploy straight from the training paddock - saw Godfrey exploit the space in behind.

The wingman beat the cover to the ball and was hauled down after kicking on, but Castleford referee Steve Presley gave nothing and, after the ball was switched right, he penalised Damien Kennedy for a double-movement as he stretched for the line.

Nonetheless, York were back in front soon after as Cain - another Rovers old boy - kicked through for old mate Callaghan to score, the referee taking an age to award the try. Hallas converted.

The Knights led 14-12 at the break and the second half was to be just as thrilling. However, it started poorly for York as Cain then Kennedy knocked on and Rovers capitalised from four consecutive sets of six by crossing twice, through recent capture Craig Poucher and stand-off Walker, to lead 22-14.

The Knights, though, were not going to crumble. Substitute Gareth Lloyd, proving what a danger he can be, made a lung-busting break, David Bolus took it nearer the line, and substitute scrum-half Yeaman jinked over, Hallas converting.

Rovers extended their lead to 24-20 with a penalty and, although Hallas missed with an attempted reply, York yet again came back.

Krause broke down the right, somehow defying three tacklers to stay in touch, and the ball was transferred left where Fletcher burst for the line and passed to Lloyd, who was tackled before the ball arrived.

The culprit, Mark Blanchard, was sin-binned and Rovers were punished further as Smith darted over from acting-half after Kennedy had been held up. Hallas' extras put York 26-24 in front with 13 minutes left.

Would the Knights win a memorable first-ever game? Unfortu-nately there was to be no magical ending as the officials took hold of the wand and waved it in Rovers' direction.

Firstly, Molloy - another former Robin - was sin-binned, apparently for a tackle off the ball, leaving York with 12 men for the remainder.

Then referee Presley deemed Smith offside a yard from his own corner with the ball heading the other way - a decision which was harsh at best - and from the tap Jon Aston barged over.

From the restart Rovers scored a superb length-of-the-field try, speedster Alasdair McLarron leaving the defence for dead and handing over to Craig Farrell to turn on the turbo. However, the furious Knights only had 11 men on at the time as workhorse Richie Hayes had not been allowed to replace the man already off, with McLarron utilising that gap.

Steve Cochran burrowed over in the last minute to seal the victory albeit with a flattering scoreline, but the standing ovation that greeted the Knights at the end said it all.

Fact file:

Knights: Beever 7, Godfrey 7, Hallas 7, Smith 7, Molloy 7, Cain 7, Krause 8, Bolus 6, Jackson 7, Hayes 8, Ramsden 7, S Fletcher 7, Callaghan 7.

Subs: (all used) Yeaman 7, Lloyd 8, Stannard 6, Kennedy 6.

Tries: Godfrey 20; Callaghan 33; Yeaman 56; Smith 67.

Conversions: Hallas 21, 34, 56, 67.

Penalties: Hallas 9.

DG: None

Hull KR: Poucher, Pinkney, Parker, Farrell, McLarron, Walker, Murdock, Wilson, Pickering, Bovill, Sullivan, Aston, Smith.

Subs: (all used): Blanchard, Andrews, Cochran, P Fletcher.

Tries: Murdock 16; Walker 24, 47; Poucher 43; Aston 72; Farrell 75; Cochran 79.

Conversions: Murdock 24, 47.

Penalties: Murdock 13, 60.

DG: None.

Man of the match: Richie Hayes - not a single backward step

Referee: Steve Presley

Penalty count: 10-9

HT: 14-12

Attendance: 3,105

Evening Press Report 20th January 2003

Interesting how many Hull KR players that day later played for the Knights, Adam Sullivan played for Hull KR and has now made the most appearances for the Knights.

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Gav, you don't have to. I'm doing it. See Press tomorrow.

Includes quiz question: which 2 players who played that day are also with Knights this year?

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I'm pretty certain there's room in people's heads for 2 articles.

Sorry chaps if it sounded like i didnt want Gav, or anyone for that matter, to do an article on it. It was meant as a lighthearted comment, pointing out a feature would be going int paper. Cheers

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Gav, you don't have to. I'm doing it. See Press tomorrow.

Includes quiz question: which 2 players who played that day are also with Knights this year?

To answer the quiz question Mick Ramsden and Adam Sullivan

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Slight link to the topic - Craig Murdoch who played in that game & played for Wigan, Hull etc

names his Dream Team in the RL Weekly today.

His team includes Gary Connolly, Martin Offiah, Andy Farrell, Shaun Edwards, Jason Robinson - and

Rich Hayes - there's a picture of horse in a Knights shirt with Roger Dixon in the background.

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