After 376 days without a competitive ball being kicked, the Sheffield Eagles and York City Knights were first up from the Betfred Championship as they raised the curtain on the first round of the Betfred Challenge Cup 2021. Both sides lost on their last outings, but after over a year it counted for absolutely nothing.
The venue was the Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster, home of the Eagles for the 2021 season. But it was the York City Knights who were favourites with the competitions sponsors to make progress into the second round and a tie away against the winners of tomorrows game between the London Broncos and Keighley Cougars.
If you fancy a real outside bet, you could back either side with Betfred at 150/1 to lift the silverware at Wembley in the final scheduled for the 17th July.
A year’s worth of cobwebs took just three minutes for the York City Knights to blow away. A Brendan O’Hagan grubber was chased by Perry Whiteley who got a hand on the ball amongst an indecisive Eagles defence for the opener. Kieran Dixon added the conversion, the favourites already 6-0 to the good.
On eight minutes Rob Worrincy and Ryan Johnson collided for Sheffield under an Izaac Farrell high kick to the corner, neither collecting the ball to score what would have been a simple try.
The Eagles were looking strong and making good ground when on fifteen Greg Burns bust through the York line with a scoot from acting half-back and a tasty dummy left before dropping the shoulder. Izaac Farrell added the extra two to level the scores.
Seven minutes before the interval Chris Brinning managed to fend off the tacklers and push over the line for the second York try of the night. It was a simple kick for Dixon to give his side a 12-6 lead.
Within a minute Ben Jones-Bishop doubled the lead with a fifty-five metre dash to the line off a Marcus Stock break and delightful inside pass, as York returned the kick-off. Dixon added the conversion for 18-6. Dixon added a penalty as the hooter warned for half time.
It was a great first half from the City Knights, building on a good defensive effort and taking their chances when they came., but the Eagles will wonder how they went from level on the scoreboard to fourteen behind in a devastating seven minute spell.
On forty-four Sheffield did brilliantly for Oliver Davies to stop a breakaway Jones-Bishop when he looked guaranteed to score and despite a restart to the six, they held York at bay when the game could have got away from them.
On the hour mark the lead was stretched by York when a bullet pass from O’Hagan found Whiteley to dive over in the corner for his second of the night. Dixon was unable to convert, his first miss of the night, but there was to be no way back for the Eagles.
Inside the last minute the Knights put the icing on the cake when Ryan Atkins collected a Jones-Bishop grubber kick to walk in for the fifth try of the night for the visitors. Dixon added the conversion for a final score of 30-6.
It’s the City Knights who make it into round two and a trip to either London or Keighley. Sheffield gave them a scare early on and the main difference between the two sides was the brace just before the interval which jumped York into a big lead. Both sides showed some understandable rust but nevertheless it was an entertaining game played out by two sides who threw everything that they had into the game, both sets of players were delighted to be back playing.
Sheffield Eagles: Guzdek, Worrincy, Johnson, Glover, Millar, Farrell I (G), Thackeray, Knowles, Burns G (T), James, Davies, Farrell J, Brown. Subs: Ward, Dickinson, Broadbent, Brown.
York City Knights: Jones-Bishop (T), Whiteley (2T), Bass, Atkins (T), Dixon (5G), O’Hagan, Marsh, Baldwinson, Jubb, Teanby, Kirmond, Clarkson, Washbook. Subs: Brinning (T), Stock, Green, Porter.
Referee: Tom Grant.