York City Knights' tricky run begins with 24-16 defeat to Barrow Raiders

·5-min read
York City Knights half-back Jamie Ellis is tackled by the Barrow Raiders defence. Picture: Craig Hawkhead
York City Knights half-back Jamie Ellis is tackled by the Barrow Raiders defence. Picture: Craig Hawkhead

YORK City Knights began a daunting run of fixtures with a 24-16 defeat at home to fellow Betfred Championship play-off contenders Barrow Raiders.

Braces from the stand-out Jarrod Sammut and winger Ryan Shaw were enough to give Barrow the points over a York side who struggled to reach anywhere near the heights seen in the previous four-match winning streak.

While the Knights were never out of the contest, Barrow held the distinct edge through Sammut’s astute kicking game and dangerous running with the ball, the half-back starting and finishing his side’s scoring.

York remain third in the Championship but next Monday’s clash with Halifax Panthers at the Shay now takes on added significance.

A Knights defeat could see them potentially drop to fifth and the fixtures get no easier after that, with clashes against top five sides Batley Bulldogs and Featherstone Rovers still to come.

A fourth defeat from 17 league matches should not be cause for excessive much doom and gloom however, and credit should be paid to Barrow, last year’s Betfred League One champions it should not be forgotten.

Head coach James Ford had warned in the week of the threat posed by Barrow’s “captain of unpredictability” Sammut and he provided a typical score to give his side a lead after less than 10 minutes.

The talismanic half-back decided to dab a kick through York’s line just over halfway and successfully chased it down before outpacing the back-tracking Knights defence.

While it is only right to applaud the mastery of Sammut, to have conceded so early on to a player much highlighted in the build-up will be a source of frustration for Ford.

Ryan Shaw added the first of three match-defining conversions.

For all of Barrow’s quality and creativity in attack, the Raiders are also capable of gifting their opponents chances.

They did just that straight after scoring as a forward pass and penalty in their own half gave the field position for Liam Harris to throw a cut-out pass to Joe Brown, who side-stepped his way to the corner.

Jamie Ellis produced an excellent and, by now, typical touchline conversion to square up matters.

Throughout the 80 minutes, York could hardly complain of lacking field position, yet could bemoan their inability to take advantage of it.

Bailey Antrobus knocked on 10m from the Barrow line while Ellis dummied through deep via a penalised obstruction.

The Raiders capitalised by striking a few sets later, with Gary Wheeler proving too strong down for Levi Edwards down the right side and handing off for Shaw to dive in.

The Cumbrian club sought a third score but some creditable York defence saw the hosts hold up Gary Wheeler, Anton Iaria and Josh Wood.

Having denied Barrow at one end, York were unable to threaten at the other, with Ellis in particular struggling to make an impact through his kicking game.

The veteran half-back was later removed at half time and did not feature during the second half, although it would be wrong to place all of York’s issues at his door, with the usual crispness and sharpness from York’s general passing game missing.

Sammut attempted a late drop-goal but was wide of the mark, keeping Barrow six in front at the break.

The Knights were given some early impetus after the restart, winning a couple of quick-fire penalties but they soon conceded one of their own with the ball for obstruction.

After a dozen minutes of the restart, York created the half’s first real chance when, on the back of a drop-out, they spread the play left but interchange Brendan O’Hagan could only find touch with his short-side pass.

While the home side’s halves struggled to find their best form, Sammut conjured up a belter of bomb which Matty Marsh was unable to catch in the air under some almighty pressure.

From the next set, Barrow were in, with Shaw stepped inside some slack defence, as three goal-line Knights all fell for the winger’s outside shimmy.

Two scores down on the hour, York were in desperate need of a spark through the middle and it soon came through the most likely of sources, Pauli Pauli.

Will Jubb’s short pass was charged onto by the towering prop forward who bust the Raiders line and reached out a hand to ground. With Ellis off the field, Harris landed the conversion.

Slowly but surely, the hosts began to build more and more pressure, which eventually told with seven minutes left, though in rather fortunate circumstances.

On the last, Harris chipped a kick in-goal which Ritson seemed destined to claim, only to see the winger spill the ball for James Glover to ground. The touchline kick was wide from Harris, keeping the gap at two and setting up a dramatic finale.

Unlike York, Barrow kept their composure amid the rising noise and after winning a penalty and putting Levi Edwards in touch deep in his half, Sammut capped the victory by scything through a tiring backline.

The Malta International’s somersault celebration was almost as impressive as the key performance in downing the Knights.

York: Marsh, Brown, Glover, Edwards, Oakes, Harris, Ellis, Pauli, Jubb, Matongo, Clarkson, Antrobus, Thompson.

Subs (all used): O’Hagan, Teanby, Dixon, Michael.

Tries: Brown (14’), Pauli (63’), Glover (73’)

Goals: Ellis (1/1), Harris (1/2)

York’s star man: Jordan Thompson. Made good metres with every carry and maintained his consistent quality amid an under-par performance from his team.

Barrow: Cresswell, Ritson, Miloudi, Wheeler, Shaw, Johnston, Sammut, Brooks, Wood, Gillam, Hopkins, Stack, Iaria.

Subs (all used): Mossop, D. Toal, Emslie, Cozza.

Tries: Sammut (9’, 79’), Shaw (22’, 56’)

Goals: Shaw (4/4)

Referee: Mike Smaill

Attendance: Not given

Penalties/Six-agains: 5-8

Goal-line drop-outs: 1-0

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