The final game of the opening day of the Summer Bash saw the runaway league leaders Featherstone Rovers take on the ‘home’ side, the York RLFC Knights with the rest of the competition hoping that the Knights could spring a surprise and record the flat cappers first league defeat of the season.
The bookies given Gavin Henderson’s battle weary side a twenty-four-point start on the coupon and predicted a massacre, but Sean Long knew that their challenge was not to be taken lightly and that anything but a top-drawer game from the top side in the competition could lead to a slip up, and an end to their eleven-game unbeaten league run.
It was potentially a great game to bring down the curtain on a fantastic first day.
Featherstone set their stall out early as they laid siege to the Knights line in the opening exchanges, York unable to get out of their own half.
When James Cunningham took out Jack Bussey off the ball on eight minutes, Gadwin Springer went over the line on his back but was held up in goal.
Gareth Gale opened the scoring on eleven after taking a Jonathon Ford miss-out pass to go round the York winger and stretch to score in the corner. Dan Smith was wide from the touchline, Featherstone with a 4-0 advantage.
Connor Fitzsimmons was sin-binned on seventeen for his reaction to being elbowed in the face by Luke Briscoe, the Featherstone winger staying on the field. Two plays after the penalty saw Springer push his way over the line and ground under the sticks. Smith was on target this time for a 10-0 lead.
On their first scoring opportunity of the game York found their way over the whitewash with Jesse Dee taking a Chris Clarkson pass to hit the Featherstone line and stretch to score. James Glover was just wide with the conversion effort, the margin down to six points.
Five minutes before the break McKenzie Yei chased down a Thomas Lacans grubber to ground in a crowd of players before going dead in goal. Jack Bussey was back from a HIA and added the conversion for a more comfortable 16-4 half time margin.
Yei was held up over the line on forty-one after a lightening fast start to the second half from Rovers.
On forty-seven a superb Caleb Aekins pass went into the hands of a grateful Gale who leapt to score in the corner and put the game beyond York. Bussey was wide with the conversion, but the lead was now sixteen points.
Gale completed his hat-trick on the hour mark as he ripped through the York defence after taking a John Davies pass to go in next to the uprights. Bussey was wide of the mark from directly in front of the uprights, an awful miss.
Featherstone were now cutting loose as they went in for their sixth try as Davies was again the provider, this time for Connor Jones to take the pass as his colleagues lined up, and dive in under the sticks. Bussey found the target this time for 30-4.
Fifteen minutes from the end John Ford was the beneficiary of a Davies pass to go in without a York hand laid upon him. Bussey kicked his third goal of the night for 36-4.
A consolation try from Joe Brown on seventy minutes gave the home crowd something to cheer as he took a high kick on the first bounce to score under the sticks. Glover hit the target with the conversion to bring up double figures.
A double dummy from Lacans gave Fev’ their eighth try of the night and bring up the forty points as he took a Jones pass. Bussey was wide again, not his best night with the boot, Featherstone with a 40-10 lead.
A jinking run from Josh Daley added another York try, Featherstone finally tiring in defence after a big effort. Glover smacked his conversion over the cross bar for 40-16.
Gale scored the final try of the game, his fourth, after York spilled the ball returning it from their own line. Bussey made the conversion with the last kick of the game for a final score of 46-16.
The Featherstone Rovers bandwagon rolls on as they continue their unbeaten run to twelve games in the 2023 Championship season. They are now eight points clear at the top of the pile and looking firm favourites for promotion to Super League come the end of season Million Pound Game, few would bet against them. York battled injury and adversity but came off a poor second best, showing the bookies, once again, to be shrewd operators.
Featherstone Rovers: Aekins, Briscoe, Hardcastle, Hankinson, Gale (4T), Ford (T), Lacans (T), Kopczak, Wildie, Springer (T), Day, Bussey (3G), Smith (G). Subs: Jones (T), Yei (T), Davies, Moors. 18th Man: Hall.
York RLFC Knights: Brown (T), Towse, Glover (G), Dee (T), Butterworth, Cunningham, Daley, Kirby, Jibb, Fitzsimmons (SB on 17), Field, Clarkson, Michael. Subs: Harrison, Teanby, Ta’ai, Barnard. 18th Man: Price.
Score Progression: 4-0, (SB), 8-0, 10-0, 10-4, 14-4, 16-4 : HT: 20-4, 24-4, 28-4, 30-4, 34-4, 36-4, 36-8, 36-10, 40-10, 40-14, 40-16, 44-16, 46-16 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: Featherstone.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas.