A SPIRITED performance saw YMCA fail to hold on for what would have been a very fine victory over second-placed Knottingley at Laund Hill.
Having led for the whole game, YM could not halt a late surge from the visitors which ended in a try right in the corner, and a touchline conversion to give Knottingley a 24-21 win.
Overall it was a good match which got away to a cracking start with YM throwing the ball about, but it was Knottingley who took the lead through their ace kicker Evans with a long-range penalty.
Gavin Stead levelled with a three-pointer of his own as prop Laurie Sanderson and second rower Karl Sibbons helped turn YM’s pack into a very competitive unit and ensured they held their own against a sizeable Knottingley eight.
And it was those two players who created the game’s opening try, when Sanderson picked up at the base of a ruck and showed a good turn of speed in chasing 50m downfield before off-loading to Sibbons.
With a couple of men to beat, the powerful second rower forced his way through the would-be tacklers to score a very good try. Unfortunately Stead was unable to add the conversion and with three other missed penalties it was to prove costly.
YM continued to pile on the pressure, and next to cross was Tim Horner, playing at stand-off, who made a brilliant individual break, leaving him a clear run to the line, and this time Stead was on target.
YM were now looking good value, and even though Knottingley pulled three back with a penalty to reduce it to 15-6 at half time, hopes were high in the home camp.
From the start of the second half, Knottingley regrouped and came out with a fairly clear game plan – keep it in the forwards as much as possible.
They started the half with renewed enthusiasm and quickly had YM on the defensive, using the big men to run the ball up short and then recycling it quickly for the process to be repeated. Their territorial advantage started to tell as they were awarded a couple of penalties in quick succession which were converted by the reliable Evans.
Stead kept the home side in the game at 18-12 with a penalty of his own after yet another Knottingley infringement at the breakdown, but as the clock ticked towards full time the visiting pack were starting to flex their muscles and had the home side on the back foot.
After good work from their forwards the ball was shifted out to the wing where Rowlandson was waiting. He jinked inside and the YM defender missed the tackle allowing him a run to the line for the first Knottingley try. Evans just failed with the conversion leaving the YM hanging on to the slenderest of leads at 18-17.
YM looked as though they had done enough when with three minutes to go Stead managed to convert a penalty giving his side a small amount of breathing space at 21-17
All the YM had to do was hold on, unfortunately the never-say-die attitude of the visitors saw them re-double their efforts and after a couple of strong drives by the forwards the ball was worked out to right winger Brown who managed to squeeze through a narrow gap to touch down.
To add insult to injury Evans stepped up and made a brilliant conversion from the touchline to put the final nail in the coffin.
From the kick off the ball fell into the hands of the Knottingley forwards and was never seen again until the final whistle.
YMCA: Smith, Ryder, Shaw, Stead, Lockwood (Tom), Horner, Wilson, Sanderson, Dyke (Steve), Sellers, Hellawell, Sibbons, Dyke (Stu), Sharrock, Walker. Subs; Lockwood (Mark), Pollock.