Two sides with contracting fortunes in the opening week of the play-offs came together for a sudden death eliminator at Bootham Crescent, as the York City Knights took on a Featherstone Rovers side who outplayed Leigh Centurions last weekend.
Featherstone comprehensively won two of the three meetings between the two sides in 2019, although it was the City Knights who won the most recent encounter, by a narrow 22-18 scorline.
One of these sides would be ending the season here and taking a well earned rest after a long season, the other would be going forward for an international trip to either Toulouse or Toronto to play in the second semi-final to keep their hopes alive.
York did well to defend their line after allowing the Featherstone kick off to bounce dead and conceding an early drop out. York soon steadied the ship after their nervous opening, but the game remained scoreless until the fifteenth minute when York registered the first points from the boot of Connor Robinson after a Featherstone ball steal on their own twenty.
Desperate defence on eighteen, in the shape of Jack Johnson’s boot, prevented the opening York four pointer but a couple of sets later Makaheshi Makatoa stripped the ball in the tackle and Robinson kicked a second penalty from in front of the sticks on twenty-two for a 4-0 lead.
On twenty-five Rovers were level when Makatoa made amends for his earlier penalty when he went over from five metres after taking the ball at first receiver. Dane Chisolm added the simple conversion and the visitors had a 6-4 lead.
Featherstone bombed a couple of good chances in the minutes following their try and when they were presented with a penalty opportunity on thirty-three, Chisolm smacked it between the uprights to double the leading margin.
It had been an end to end first half battle with little to choose between the two sides, and the second half was set up be as nerve shredding for both sets of supporters.
Featherstone were out of the blocks early in the second half, looking to extend their lead, and on forty-six James Harrison mesmerised the York defence as he ran the angle and scored under the sticks. Chisolm added the extras and Featherstone had one foot on the plane.
Brad Day added Rovers third try just three minutes later after taking a delightful inside pass from Chisolm to ride a tackle and make it over the line to ground. Chisolm was again accurate with the boot as the game was slipping away from the home side.
The City Knights had been blitzed.
York simply couldn’t get back into the game thanks to superb Featherstone defence. On seventy Johnson scored a breakaway try with a ninety metre run down the left wing to put the result beyond any doubt. The winger diffused the bomb, went through a gap, and sped to the line. Chisolm added the conversion for 26-4.
A seventy-fifth minute try from Jack Render added insult to injury for York and extended the lead to 30-4 and he grounded one handed in the right corner. Chisolm missed his first kick of the afternoon but it was irrelevant to the result.
This was a clinical performance from Featherstone Rovers against a York City Knights side who never go going. After a fantastic season for last seasons promoted side they will have to hang up their boots for the winter and look forward to 2020 in the Championship. Featherstone will begin their preparations for their game in either France or Canada next weekend.
City Knights: Marsh, Whiteley, Hey, Bass, Oakes, Harris, Robinson (2G), Teanby, Jubb, Stock, Salter, Scott, Spears. Subs: Dixon, Ellis, Horne, Baldwinson.
Rovers: Golding, Carey, Sutcliffe, Hardcastle, Johnson (T), McLelland, Chisolm (5G), Davies, Jones, Makatoa (T), Walters, Day (T), Lockwood. Subs: Cooper, Harrison (T), Render (T), Albert.
Referee: Ben Thaler.