A penalty goal from James Glover on HALFWAY-LINE gave the York Knights a historic 26-24 win over the Halifax Panthers.
After a hat-trick from Lachlan Walmsley and a try from Ben Kavanagh, Halifax went into the second half with a 22-12 lead and the wind in their sails.
The injured York, however, rallied to keep the hosts without a try for the 40 seconds and scored two tries themselves, through Liam Harris and Levi Edwards, to set up a dramatic finish.
Having taken on only first-choice spot-kicking duties at the weekend, Glover stepped up to deliver an incredible game-winning game, sealing York’s first-ever Betfred Championship play-off victory. Since their reformation as the Knights in 2003, few victories match this one in terms of athletic achievement.
A daunting trip to Leigh Centurions in the semi-finals now awaits the Knights on Sunday (2 p.m.), but for now it seems much more important to reflect on the Knights’ incredible feat.
To have joined a side that finished three places above them in the table, and on a 19-match winning streak in their last 22 games, without eight injured players and winning in such a stubborn and determined way is a testament to the work done by head coach James Ford and his players throughout this season.
It was a York side also containing four teenagers and showing three changes from the 74-12 thrashing of relegated Workington Town last time out.
Jamie Ellis, Levi Edwards and Bailey Antrobus all returned to the starting 13. Injured duo Brendan O’Hagan and Brad Ward dropped out, as did Marcus Stock.
York were obviously looking to score Halifax talisman Joe Keyes, a Championship Player of the Year, early on, but such pressure boiled over early on as Danny Kirmond was booked for a late shot on the half-back after only three minutes.
The Knights rallied to at least take the lead, thanks to a penalty goal from Glover, but conceded twice without former Wakefield captain Trinity and up to 12 men.
First, a Jordan Thompson forward pass from the restart gave Ben Kavanagh position on the court to hit a nice inside line from Keyes’ pass.
Then Keyes dabbed a kick into the goal off the back of a Halifax striker and Walmsley fell short without a defender in sight.
The first of Keyes’ conversions was good, with the former York loanee finishing with four goals from seven attempts.
As the Knights had done earlier, the Panthers followed it up with an error on the restart, Glover’s drilled effort beating a Halifax man into touch.
A few repeat sets later and Matty Marsh’s pass, who was looking forward from the view in the press box, sent Joe Brown back to the right sideline.
Glover – who finished with five goals from seven attempts – was unable to convert from the touchline.
The visitors then came back in front as a cross kick from the impressive Liam Harris saw Walmsley trapped in the in-goal.
From there, Fax favorite Walmsley dropped a Harris grubber and Will Jubb was perfectly positioned to happily land in acres of space.
Just when York seemed to have built a platform, disaster struck. Already without halves Brendan O’Hagan and Ata Hingano through injury, Jamie Ellis flew off the line but ended with a shoulder problem that ruled him out of the rest of the contest, forcing back rower Chris Clarkson to play the role of playmaker.
The loss to Ellis, combined with poor discipline from York, saw Fax score twice before the break, with Walmsley completing his hat-trick.
A perfect corner kick from James Woodburn-Hall caught an inside defensive run from Joe Brown and set the former Whitehaven man up.
And on the back of a six-repeat set, Jouffret fed Walmsley for his hat-trick, leaving Halifax 22-12 at the break.
Anyone expecting this to signal the floodgates opening in the second half was sadly mistaken.
On the back of a superb Tom Inman 40/20, Chris Clarkson crossed the Fax line before leaving the ball for Harris to run over.
Harris remained in the thick of the action, his chip over the top nearly obliterated by Matty Marsh, although Woodburn-Hall was able to parry for a retirement.
From there, Edwards proved too strong in the left corner, beating a few defenders with Clarkson’s cut pass. Glover’s miss kick left the scores at 22-22.
Halifax thought they had regained the lead when Adam Tangata turned under the sticks following a ball dropped by Glover, but the loose forward lost it to the ground.
The Panthers finally took the lead a few minutes later, with Keyes scoring his side’s only points of the half from the kick tee.
10 minutes later York responded with a penalty goal, Glover leveled the scores at 24-24 with 15 minutes remaining.
The late drama begins when Harris trumped a drop goal attempt wide of the sticks before York was awarded a penalty midway through.
Part-time kicker Glover stepped in and netted an incredible goal from 50 yards out with the ball sailing through the middle of the posts.
Halifax themselves had a late shot on goal, theirs coming from 40m, although Keyes hit the woodwork and it bounced wide, ending Halifax’s play-off hopes for another season and handing York a win famous.
Halifax: Woodburn-Hall, Saltonstall, Worthington, McComb, Saltonstall, Jouffret, Keyes, Calcott, Moore, Murray, Kavanagh, Barber, Tangata.
Submarines (all used): Fairbank, Wood, Gee, Gwaze.
Tries: Kavanagh (9′), Walmsley (13′, 32′, 40′)
Goals: Keyes (4/6)
York: Marsh, Brown, Glover, Edwards, Towse, Harris, Ellis, Teanby, Jubb, Thompson, Kirmond, Antrobus, Clarkson.
Subs used: Michael, Porter, Inman. Unused submarines: Barnard.
Tries: Brown (19′), Jubb (25′), Harris (45′), Edwards (52′)
Goals: Glover (5/7)
Sinbins: Kirmond (3′)
York’s star man: Liam Harris. Kicked sensationally all night and got up in the absence of Jamie Ellis, who passed away after half an hour.
Referee: Jack Smith
Forced retirements on the goal line: 0-3
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