York City Knights 32 Whitehaven 14

York stirred up a second-half performance worthy of League One Trophy winners, scoring three tries after Haven had matched their first-half performance, leaving the field at the break only two points in arrears.

Haven had travelled with a good following of vocal fans who knew nothing less than a draw or victory would ensure a play-off spot for Carl Forster’s heroic season-long efforts as player-coach.

Their hopes were no doubt strengthened by being the only team other than Bradford to defeat the Knights this season and no doubt relishing the memory of last year’s epic semi-final victory when Steve Roper dropped the golden point after 26-minutes of additional play in the mud and rain in west Cumbria.

With blue skies and sunshine greeting the team’s entry to the ground’s lush green turf, this promised to be an entirely different game with the first 10-minutes of highly intensive forward play demonstrating where this game would be won and lost.

York spurned an early opportunity to kick a penalty goal, opting to run the ball.

But, after Ben Cockayne dropped a ball in the tackle giving Haven momentum, Forster was quick to point towards the posts when referee Jack Smith raised his hand to give the penalty.

Dan Abram’s 40-metre kick sailed between the posts, although he was unable to repeat the feat 10-minutes later from a similar distance.

Two penalties from Connor Robinson gave York a tentative two-point lead, although a superb feathered kick-through from Jesse Joe Parker looked to have given Abram a chance to touch down. The full-back was only inches away from making contact with the ball when it was hacked dead behind the line for a drop-out.

Haven were enjoying a purple patch in attack when James Tilley attempted to force a pass in a good position only to surrender possession.

Play swung to the opposite end and Robinson’s sharp kick could only be forced dead to give possession back and the stand-off quickly kicked another penalty as Haven were penalised for a high tackle.

Substitute Joe Porter then gave the Knights yardage with a quality break only to ignore full-back Matty Marsh on his shoulder when attempting to drift past Abram and Haven breathed again.

But this was only a temporary lull as Ash Robson ran at speed across the Haven defensive line to release centre Brad Day whose offload saw winger Matt Chilton fly in at the corner with Robinson unable to kick the conversion.

Haven quickly levelled the scores as live wire sub Josh Eaves dummied from a play-the-ball under the posts before twisting and turning in the tackle to ground the ball with Abram converting. However, Robinson added another penalty on the cusp of 40 minutes and Haven trailed by two points at the break.

Two further Robinson penalties increased the Knights lead with the decisive moment arriving on 59 minutes.

Joe Batchelor, in his last game for the Knights after signing for St Helens next season, showed his skills, weaving in and out of tackles down the right-hand channel before a quality offload allowed centre Sam Scott to force his way over the line and score.

Four minutes later, sub Joel Edwards emulated Josh Eaves earlier try under the posts and, with Robinson converting, daylight was beginning to emerge with 16-points between the sides.

Parker then rose to the occasion, bamboozling the York defence down the left-hand channel before an inch-perfect pass gave Jordan Burns an opportunity to demonstrate his gymnastic skills touching down one-handed while in the air for a spectacular try. Abram kicked a massive touchline conversion to give a glimmer of hope.

But this was quickly extinguished as Matty Chilton added his second try of the afternoon with a final penalty from Robinson seconds from the final hooter bringing the game to an end.

Match Stats

YORK: Marsh, Robson, Batchelor, Hey, Chilton, Cockayne, Robinson, Dixon, Ellis, Horne, Jordan-Roberts, Scott, Spears

Subs (All Used): Carter, Edwards, Ormandroyd, Porter

Tries: Chilton (34, 72) Scott (50) Edwards (63)

Goals: Robinson (2/4)

Penalties: Robinson (6)

WHITEHAVEN: Abram, Burns, Mossop, Parker, Green, Roper, Phillips, Thompson, Howarth, Tilley, Aiye, Gillam, Forster

Subs (all used): Coward, Eaves, Holiday, Thompson

Tries: Eaves (37) Burns (67)

Goals: Abram (2/2)

Penalty: Abram (1)

Penalty Count: 10-6

Half-time: 10-8

Referee: Jack Smith (Wigan)

Star Man: Carl Forster / Josh Eaves