A Mighty Clash: As Knights took on the Golden Army

@AllGolds #COYAG

Article by James Gray, All Golds Media Intern

Photos provided by Daisy Hebbs, Lewis Mitchell and Amy Jones, All Golds Photographers

University of Gloucestershire All Golds 24 York City Knights 22

The University of Gloucestershire All Golds only just scraped past a vastly improving  South Wales Scorpions side last weekend, and this Sunday took on second placed York City Knights at the Prince of Wales Stadium.

The sides last met in the very first game of the Kingstone Press Championship One season, and back in March both teams were closely matched until York’s persistence paid off for them to claim a 26-16 victory; with the Gloucestershire side content to collect a bonus point. However, since the introduction of Steve McCormack, the last few weeks have shown a change in the mentality of the All Golds and they approached this fixture with only three points on their agenda.

Unfortunately for the home side, there were a number of forced changes to the squad that travelled across the border last Sunday. A late rule out for recent captain Brendan Smith and Gloucester boy Scott Claridge meant a shuffle of players, with Miles Fairbank moving to centre and Richard Jones playing second row. Further outings were also given to teenage academy products Frankie Foster and Danny Spencer – Tonks.

These changes certainly seemed to affect the All Golds, as for much of the first half they found themselves on the back foot, struggling to deal with the physicality of the Knights, and growing frustrated with their lack of completion. Not for the first time, the home side knocked on and gave the perfect opportunity for the away team to force the initiative; from the scrum James Morland comfortably ran round the right side of the All Golds defence to score.

Their opening try only seemed to further the stance of the title hopefuls, as they capitalised on a sluggish retreating All Golds defence after Matt Bradley’s overshot kick. Ben Reynolds made at least 60 metres before being brought down, plus with the addition of a penalty for offside York only needed to find a matter of yards with an entire set remaining. Admittedly it didn’t come quickly, but Jon Presley sidesteped well to finally score and with Reynolds converting, taking the away side 12 points ahead.

Unbelievably the home side continued to knock on and struggle to complete their sets, and with mistakes comes chances. This time York moved the ball quickly to the left wing for Ben Dent to finish smartly in the corner, highlighting a very lacklustre performance for the All Golds inside the first 25 minutes.

The home side were really struggling to announce themselves as contenders in this game, but the great thing about Rugby League is how things can turn around, as McCormack’s men showed they could compete and now complete, as Phil Cowburn scored in the corner. Bradley converted.Danny Thomas broke the line and passed to Fairbank who laid it off to Cowburn, to run clear.

This try out of nowhere ignited the home team, who enjoyed a fantastic final 15 minutes of the second half. Now forcing the errors from York, the All Golds were applying sustained pressure and enough force for Richard Jones to score just before half time. Jones’ try and Bradley’s conversion meant the home side were only four points adrift going into the second period, despite producing one of their worst phases of play under McCormack.

Neither team could add to their tallies in the opening few minutes, however those minutes would also include the most significant moment of the fixture. Once getting up after being tackled an annoyed Jack Francis shoved away a number of York opposition, and started the making of a nasty brawl near the half way line. In an incident where there seemed to be a number of punches thrown, it was the reacting Austin Bell who referee Peter Brooke adjudged to be at fault and quickly sent him from the field with a red card.

Bell’s sending off not only reduced York to 12 but totally changed the outlook of the game, and the All Golds were on hand to take full advantage of their weakened opponents. Jason Muranka who has been in great scoring form of late, hit a great line and broke the York defence sending his side into the lead for the first time. Bradley again added the extras.

It was now clear after such a disappointing opening, that the All Golds were looking at a fantastic chance to go ahead and win this game. First Ben White broke free, and the following move produced a quality exchange between Thomas and Muranka who demonstrated a football style one-two, for Thomas to take the All Golds six points clear.

The game had begun in bright sunshine, but now with a stormy dark rainstorm overhead, it seemed as if the sun had gone out on York’s chances. Especially after Matt Bradley took the two points once being given the penalty.

However, the winning side needed to be reminded that they were facing a quality outfit, even if they were a man down. And this quality amongst a handful of scrums showed, as they were right back into the game with Jack Lee’s try. They had been pressurising for a while, and it only seemed a matter of time before they  would score, but with Reynolds conversion they were only two points behind with over ten minutes to play.

But it wasn’t to be York’s afternoon as the All Golds wouldn’t let this lead slip, and showing a real togetherness as a team. Simple moments such as forcing goal-line dropouts and putting men into touch were greeted with cheers from the bench and crowd and cries of joy from the players; the game meant so much to them.

With fantastic team spirit they held on and claimed their greatest win of the season, vanquishing their northern opponents 24-22. It’s now a well earned weekend off for the All Golds, who gradually try and work their way up the Championship One table.

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It’s another great result for Steve McCormack’s men:

“You can’t gift any team that sort of possession. We had a couple of sets in our own 20 and our 30 that we coughed up, and you can’t keep doing that and we were 0-16 down to a team that we knew exactly what they were going to do, we knew the way York play and we gifted them 16 points.

“I’ve worked on that (team morale) more than I’ve worked on the tactical side of it, without that you’ve got nothing. You can have a team full of superstars, but if you don’t have that respect and those values within a team, then those enthusiasm levels drop and people just expect it to happen.

“I’ve asked a lot of the players the last few weeks, so this week they can have Saturday and Sunday with their families, I’ll allow them that.”

First half try scorer Richard Jones added:

“It’s the best win to date and a very proud moment for myself, it’s nice for the lads to all pull through together.

“Each side of myself, the player to my left and right were digging for me. Everybody, 1 to 17 are digging through for each other and that’s what gave us a well deserved win.

“It’s great we’re looking for a playoff spot, but I don’t think we should get ahead of ourselves, there’s still a lot of hard work to be done, but if we keep pulling together as a side we’ve shown today that we can play the big teams and beat them, and that’s our goal.”

Man of the Match: Danny Thomas

The University of Gloucestershire All Golds York City Knights
7. Danny Thomas 25. Ben Reynolds
4. Aidan Jenkins 26. James Salton-Stall
11. Miles Fairbank l3. Tyler Craig
3. Phil Cowburn 4. James Morland
5. Jarrod Ward 5. Ben Dent
6. Ben White 6. Pat Smith
9. Matt Bradley 7. Jon Presley
18. James Walter 32. Brad Brennan
19. Craig Cook 9. Jack Lee
10. Izaak Duffy 10. Jack Aldous
12. Jason Muranka 11. Ryan Mallinder
16. Richard Jones 12. Ed Smith
17. Jack Francis 28. Joe Picketts
Replacements: Replacements:
14. Casey Canterbury 20.Harry Carter
15. Harry Chapman-Walker 18. Austin Bell
8. Daniel Spencer-Tonks 29. Ryan Backhouse
13. Frank Foster 35. Colton Roche
Coach: Coach:
Steve McCormack Gary Thornton

Referee: Peter Brooke

Touch Judges: J. Jones and N. Woodward

Attendance: 318