Featherstone Rovers 41 York City Knights 32: Craig Hall stars as 1895 Cup heads to Post Office Road after superb Wembley final
Featherstone Rovers defied Covid and a spirited York City Knights comeback to win the 1895 Cup this afternoon, in their first appearance at Wembley for 38 years.
A stunning spell of 18 points in seven second half minutes swung the game Rovers’ way, after York had wiped out a 22-10 interval deficit.
It was a tremendous effort by Rovers, who were without coach James Webster and a host of influential players after positive Covid tests earlier in the week.
York had similar problems, only confirming they could play on Saturday morning, but gave a good account of themselves in a cracking contest before Featherstone took a grip on the game between the 52nd and 59th minutes.
Young winger Jacob Doyle, in only his second senior game after joining Rovers from Castleford Tigers’ academy, had an afternoon to remember, scoring two tries.
Halves Nu Brown and Dane Chisholm had a big influence for Rovers, John Davies was strong in the left-centre and the pack, led by the experienced quartet of Craig Kopczak, James Lockwood, James Harrison and Brett Ferres refused to wilt in hot conditions.
Full-back Craig Hall was named man of the match after scoring a try and six goals from nine attempts.
And youngster Joe Summers, another Tigers product, made history in the final moments when he came off the bench for his professional debut.
Rovers pounded York’s line for the opening seven minutes before Chisholm stepped through for the opening try, on the last tackle immediately after Kopczak had been held up.
Chisholm had already landed a 40-20 and dabbed through a kick which Doyle couldn’t ground over the whitewash.
Having been under the pump, Knights scored on their first attack with a brilliant try by former Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity winger Ben Jones-Bishop, who out jumped Gareth Gale to catch and touch down Mikey Lewis’ cross kick on the last.
Kieran Dixon could not add the extras, but that was the start of a spell of Knights dominance which almost produced a try for Tyme Dow-Nikau - son of ex-Castleford Tigers legend Tawera Nikau - could he couldn’t ground Lewis’ kick.
Chisholm’s try came after a knock on by Kieran Dixon near his own line and Rovers struck again when Perry Whiteley spilled the half-back’s high kick and in the resulting set Kopczak crashed over the top of his former Wakefield teammate Danny Kirmond, from a nice pass by Lockwood.
Hall again converted, but for a second time York came up with a rapid response as Marcus Stock stepped and then powered over the line following a penalty and six-again.
Back-to-back tries in the final 10 minutes of the half gave Rovers a healthy advantage at the interval.
Club stalwart Davies is one of the Betfred Championship’s unsung heroes and, playing out of position in the left-centre, he provided the final pass for both.
The first came on 33 minutes, after Josh Hardcastle had been held up. Chisholm and Hall moved the ball left and Davies’ offload was well finished at the corner by Doyle.
Then Ferres - one of a host of Leeds Rhinos connections in the game - sent Davies storming upfield and he timed his pass nicely to put Brown over, Hall’s third goal making it 22-10 at the break.
The third quarter was explosive as York rocked Rovers by pulling level within seven minutes, before Featherstone hit back to go three scores clear.
York got back into the game straight after the resumption, in controversial fashion. Hardcastle knocked on Lewis’ kick and in the resulting set Kris Brining went over from acting-half.
With no video oficial on duty, referee Robert Hicks awarded the try, but replays on the big screen suggested the ball wasn’t granted.
Then moments later Hall fumbled a kick and collided with Gale and Jason Bass picked up to scamper over unopposed.
Dixon added the extras to both to square the scores, but the restart went dead and Hall kicked Rovers back in front with a penalty for offside in the subsequent set.
Kieran Dixon prevented a try by knocking down Hall’s pass, aimed at Chisholm, but Rovers extended their lead with another quality finish from Doyle, off Brown’s pass and Hall landed the goal off the touchline.
Moments later Brown produced a fine pass to send Harrison storming over and then, after Hall had again converted, the full-back went over from Ferres’ inside pass and at 40-22 at the end of the third quarter, Rovers were sitting pretty.
Hall missed with a penalty attempt 16 minutes from time and York cut the gap with nine minutes later when Lewis went over from close range and Dixon converted.
Another try would have set Rovers’ nerves jangling, but Chisholm settled it with a drop goal four minutes from the end.
That was smart as Whiteley intercepted from Ferres and went the length of the field for York’s sixth try, which Kieran Dixon improved to complete the scoring.