York RLFC Knights came into their final home game of the season against the Batley Bulldogs with the slenderest of hopes of making the playoffs while their opponents knew that a win in tonight’s game in front of the ViaPlay cameras would mean that their qualification for the playoff was in their own hands.
A win for York by seven points or more would lift them above the Bulldogs and into seventh spot in the league, while a win for the Bulldogs would see them up to sixth in the table, going back above the Halifax Panthers who usurped them yesterday afternoon.
Batley have what looks like a home banker against the Newcastle Thunder next week while York travel to Barrow and Halifax have a home game against the Swinton Lions. Whatever happened tonight the playoffs wouldn’t finally be decided until next week’s games.
A brutal tackle from Batley saw the ball dislodged from Myles Harrison’s grasp and three tackles into the resulting set, Lucas Walshaw crashed through the defensive line to dive over and open the scoring for the Bulldogs. Dale Morton was wide with a simple conversion.
Adam Gledhill knocked the ball on as he tried to collect a ricochet off the post, York breathing a sigh of relief.
On eighteen a deft Josh Wood grubber was grounded by James Meadows under the crossbar for the second Bulldogs try. This time Morton was on target with the conversion for a 10-0 lead, Batley fully deserving their lead.
Aidan McGowan spilled a wicked spiral bomb on twenty-two but made amends sixty seconds later when he put his body on the line to stop York from scoring as their attack then fizzled out.
On twenty-five Oli Pratt backed himself to go for the line dragging two tacklers over when the pass was on to an unmarked teammate. Harris pushed his kick across the face of the goal, the home side still six behind.
On twenty-eight it was Morton’s turn to drop a high ball but this time the defence held firm and the Bulldogs regained possession.
A great effort from AJ Towse, finding space wide left after taking a looping Myles Harrison pass to score in the corner. Harris was again wide with his conversion attempt.
York went into the lead with seconds remaining when Brown was on hand to take a delightful offload from Harrison and scamper over to dive in at the corner for the third York try. This time Harris found the target and the Knights went into the interval with a 14-10 lead after being second best for most of the opening forty minutes.
It was a frantic opening ten minutes of the second half as both sides upped their game in their full understanding of the importance of the outcome.
Batley were back on level terms on the hour mark when Dale Morton palmed away his tackler to drop over the line from a couple of metres out after a couple of epic offloads in the build-up. Morton dropped his conversion attempt just short, and the game moved into the last twenty all square.
An attempted drop goal from Josh Woods went wide of the uprights on seventy-six and Harris had an effort from thirty metres on seventy-seven, but his attempt went under the crossbar.
As the clock hit eighty minutes, Harris kicked the one-pointer to take the win for York and push their season on into the last game.
As the hooter sounded the Batley players dropped to their knees, their hopes of the playoffs as crushed as their spirits. York are now level on points with the Bulldogs after a game which confirmed that the Bradford Bulls are now guaranteed a playoff place and that in all likelihood they will be joined by the London Broncos and Halifax Panthers. Should results go in their favour then York and Batley could both still make it, but it is out of their hands and into those of the competition.
A superb Monday night game packed with commitment and excitement, York showing great character to come back from a poor opening thirty minutes to take the points at the death.
York RLFC Knights: Brown (T), Towse (T), Clarkson, Pratt (T), Harrison, Dee, Harris (G, DG), Ta’ai, Jubb, Fitzsimmonds, Field, Kirmond, Thompson. Subs: Michael, Pauli, Santi, Pemberton. 18th Man: Bass.
Batley Bulldogs: McGowan, Morton (T, G), Hodson, Buchanan, Kear, Meadows (T), Woods, Gledhill, Blake, Reilly, Manning, Walshaw (T), White. Subs: Ward, Senior, Flynn, Burton. 18th Man: Johnson.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-8, 0-10, 4-10, 8-10, 12-10, 14-10 : HT: 14-14, 15-14 :FT.
Lead Exchanges: Batley – York – Square - York.
Referee: Marcus Griffiths.