YORK City Knights’ seven-match winning streak in the Betfred Championship came to an end at the hands of play-off rivals Halifax Panthers in a 40-24 home defeat.
York had looked in control of the contest when leading 18-6 after half an hour and with a numerical benefit after seeing Halifax reduced to 11 men.
The Panthers though showed great character and showcased some sublime attack to reel off three late first-half tries in the space of five minutes.
After the break, the Knights regained the lead but it was short-lived as further offensive class from Halifax saw them score three more times unanswered.
The result sees York’s lead in third over Halifax cut down to just two points and Fax now appear the form side in the race for second-best behind run-away top two Featherstone Rovers and Leigh Centurions, now on a seven-match winning streak themselves.
To have conceded 40 points, for only the second time this season, will have frustrated head coach James Ford, although it should be pointed that this was not a York side at full strength.
Jacob Ogden and Brendan O’Hagan, who suffered injuries at Odsal, missed out while several others played on through knocks.
Australian Bailey Antrobus came in for his Knights debut and Sam Davis returned as the interchange hooker.
The injury problems for York continued to mount as Danny Kirmond had to come off for what appeared to be a finger injury after just four minutes.
That blow did not deter the Knights though as just seconds later, Jamie Ellis grubber-kicked through for half-back partner Liam Harris to score unchallenged against his former club.
Ellis added the conversion, his first of four successful attempts on goal.
Halifax quickly hit back to level the scores after a dozen minutes. James Saltonstall offloaded nicely to Louis Jouffret who released James Woodburn-Hall to break through the middle and tee up Lachlan Walmsley to score under the sticks.
Joe Keyes hit the first of six conversions.
The Panthers were celebrating another try when Saltonstall and Jouffret combined, the former putting the latter in at the corner, but referee Ben Thaler ruled the pass forward.
Midway through the half, Halifax were dealt their first of what appeared to be two major blows.
Jouffret was adjudged to have professionally fouled Joe Porter and, in the next set, Jack Teanby stormed onto Ellis’ short ball to go under the posts.
After Woodburn-Hall dropped a kick on his line, Fax were down to 11 men when Saltonstall was the next to have committed a professional foul.
Halifax’s lack of numbers allowed Matty Marsh to cross down the left.
With their numerical advantage, York were keen to attempt wide shifts but Harris got a long pass wrong down the right, allowing Walmsley to race away for an intercept try from his own 20m mark.
That score marked Halifax’s first of three tries in the space of five minutes. The game’s stand-out player, Joe Keyes, made a terrific break and put Brandon Moore in at close range.
On the back of a penalty, Woodburn-Hall showed his attacking class to dummy his Ellis from 10m out.
A shellshocked York had been 18-6 in front with a man advantage but went into half time 22-18 down.
With the words of James Ford almost certainly ringing in their ears, the Knights made a good start to the second half, patiently creating some pressure and battling to win a couple of drop-outs before regaining their lead.
Harris went over for the second time by selling his ex-team-mates a trademark dummy.
While it had taken York a dozen minutes of consistent pressure to score, Halifax by contrast looked deadly whenever within striking range.
After winning a drop-out, Dan Murray barged over from Kyle Wood’s short ball.
In the next set, Keyes broke through again and Barber’s attempt at the line ended in a knock-on.
However, a high tackle put Fax in requisite position for a lovely shift on the right, with Woodburn-Hall’s cut-out pass giving Walmsley his hat-trick.
Trailing by 10, York needed a score and when a Fax error and a Saltonstall high tackle left them in the away side’s 10, they failed to find the breakthrough.
The Panthers meanwhile went up the other end, piggy-backed by a penalty, to score through Murray again, the prop benefitting from a terrific Adam Tangata offload.
Keyes’ final conversion brought up 40 points for Halifax and capped a professional and battling display for the visitors, who may well have taken a huge step in the race for third.
York: Marsh, Brown, Glover, Antrobus, Oakes, Ellis, Harris, Matongo, Jubb, Dixon, Clarkson, Kirmond, Thompson.
Subs (all used): Teanby, Davis, Stock, Porter.
Tries: Harris (6’, 52’), Teanby (23’), Marsh (27’)
Goals: Ellis (4/4)
York’s star man: Jordan Thompson. Always willing in both attack and defence and continues to impress following his off-season switch from Leigh.
Halifax: Woodburn-Hall, Walmsley, Arundel, Tibbs, Saltonstall, Jouffret, Keyes, Calcott, Moore, Murray, Roberts, Garside, Tangata.
Subs (all used): Wood, Barber, Gwaze, Larroyer.
Tries: Walmsley (12’, 34’, 64’), Moore (36’), Woodburn-Hall (39’), Murray (58’, 71’)
Goals: Keyes (6/7)
Sin-bins: Jouffret (22’), Saltonstall (26’)
Referee: Ben Thaler
Attendance: Not given
Goal-line drop-outs: 2-1