York City Knights 12 Featherstone Rovers 30: Brian McDermott's side make winning start in Championship despite injury to debutant Jesse Sene-Lefao
and live on Freeview channel 276
As to be expected in their first competitive game, Rovers looked rusty in spells, but York will trouble a lot of teams this year, especially at home and the 30-12 result was a good night’s work for Rovers.
The game was a fine advert for the second tier in the competition’s return to Premier Sports and a big away following, in the bumper crowd of 3,602, created a terrific atmosphere at York’s new stadium.
Half-back Morgan Smith - an off-season signing from York following an injury-hit spell there last year - was influential for Rovers and his combination with another debutant, full-back Brandon Pickersgill, was at the heart of Featherstone’s best moments.
Last week’s signings Joey Leilua and Adam Cuthbertson didn’t make the matchday 17 and former Castleford Tigers second-rower Jesse Sene-Lefao’s Rovers debut lasted only six minutes, which took some of the gloss off the win.
He got over the line for what should have been the opening try, but lost possession in a superb last-ditch tackle by Matty Marsh, suffered a dislocated shoulder in the process and played no further part.
Rovers scored two tries in five minutes midway through the opening period to go 12-0 up, but York pulled six points back to leave the game in the balance at the break.
After an early scare, Rovers were on top for most of the final 40, though York never waved the white flag.
It took Rovers until the 22nd minute to make a breakthrough, Smith getting over from a pass by half-back partner Tom Holmes.
Four minutes later Smith turned provider with a short ball which sent Jack Bussey crashing over the line. Craig Hall converted both.
Up to that point, York had wasted some good attacking opportunities through knock-ons and one ill-judged kick, but they scored out of nothing on 30 minutes to get back into the game.
A high kick by Jamie Ellis, the former Castleford half-back, was knocked back by Joe Brown and James Glover took advantage to cross for a try which Ellis improved to halve the deficit.
Rovers’ left-side looked vulnerable under kicks from Ellis and Gareth Gale fumbled a couple, including one on the stroke of half-time.
York were close to potentially levelling the scores early in the second period as they kept the ball alive on the last, but Smith did really well to keep Jack Logan out.
That was a crucial intervention as Rovers quickly added two converted tries to open an 18-point gap.
First, James Lockwood went close and then Pickersgill shifted the ball right to send centre Josh Hardcastle in at the corner.
John Davies made a break in the next set which almost led to a try for Pickersgill, but Marsh managed to make the tackle.
The visitors, though, had the wind in their sails and did score again on 54 minutes, with Smith and Pickersgill again involved, the latter’s pass being finished brilliantly at the corner by Luke Briscoe, on his competitive return to Rovers from Leeds.
Hall landed two superb touchline conversions and at 24-6 the points were heading for Featherstone.
Knights did hit back through a try from acting-half by Will Jubb which Ellis goaled, but Hall put on some footwork to go over for Rovers’ fifth try with eight minutes left.
He couldn’t maintain his 100 per cent record with the boot, but did land a penalty to complete the scoring as the hooter sounded.
York City Knights: Harrison, Brown, Glover, Logan, Oakes;, Marsh, Ellis, Matongo, Jubb, Michael, Clarkson, Kirmond, Thompson. Subs: Brining, Teanby, Stock, Pauli.
Featherstone Rovers: Pickersgill, Briscoe, Hardcastle, Hall, Gale, Holmes, Smith, Cooper, Wildie, Lockwood, Moors, Sene-Lefao, Bussey. Subs : Jones, Davies, Trout, Field.
Referee: Jack Smith (Wigan).
Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. You'll enjoy unlimited access to the latest on Leeds United, Leeds Rhinos, Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Trinity, as well as other West Yorkshire rugby league clubs. With our sports digital subscription, you'll also see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times and get exclusive content. Click here to subscribe.