Featherstone Rovers 41 York City Knights 34: Rovers class shines through in epic 1895 Cup Final

A DEVASTATING spell of 18 points inside just eight minutes helped Featherstone Rovers hold off gutsy York City Knights in a thrilling 1895 Cup final at Wembley.

The showpiece game, which had been under threat until York’s players returned negative Covid tests this morning, was finely poised at 22-22 in the 51st minute.

City Knights’ Jason Bass had just run in his side’s fourth try but Marcus Stock could not prevent the restart bouncing dead over his head and that prompted Featherstone’s ruthless purple patch.

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Captain Craig Hall slotted a penalty and his side - with assistant Paul March in charge after head coach James Webster was one of their personnel who tested positive for Covid - took firm control with tries from young winger Jacob Doyle, James Harrison and Hall himself on the hour mark.

Fittingly, though, given the full part they had played in a pulsating contest, James Ford’s side finished strongly with a score from the excellent on-loan Hull KR scrum-half Mikey Lewis and a stunning 90m intercept from Perry Whiteley.

Hordes of jubilant Featherstone fans who had headed down from their West Yorkshire town celebrated the win as they returned to Wembley for the first time since the famous 1983 Challenge Cup success over Hull.

Granted, they had been favourites given they have won all 12 league games this term and their Championship rivals were on a six-game losing run.

But, remarkably, they had youngster Joseph Summers making his professional debut off the bench at Wembley - and it was only Doyle's second senior match.

Featherstone Rovers' James Lockwood holds aloft the 1895 Cup after his side's win over York City Knights at Wembley today. (BRUCE ROLLINSON)

Eventually, they had to much guile, with half-backs Dane Chisholm and Nu Brown controlling well alongside man-of-the-match Craig Hall, and their execution was superior.

But York - 90 years after their only other Wembley appearance, a Challenge Cup final loss to Halifax - certainly played their part in an entertaining contest.

They did well to

Australian Chisholm immediately showed he was in the mood with a glorious 40/20 in the opening exchanges and it was no surprise when his Featherstone side took the lead soon after.

Featherstone Rovers' Craig Kopczak celebrates his try (BRUCE ROLLINSON)

Kieran Dixon, who had such a torrid afternoon here with Hull KR in 2015, failed to deal with a Hall grubber.

From there, Chisholm showed his running skills, stepping past the first line of defence and then through Dixon’s attempted tackle to cross in front of Rovers’ delirious fans on eight minutes.

Hall slotted the first of his six goals but York did not wilt under the early pressure or the searing heat.

Instead, they responded within just three minutes and in their first genuine attack.

Featherstone Rovers captain James Lockwood offloads against York City Knights in the 1895 Cup Final. (BRUCE ROLLINSON)

Lewis, back on loan from KR this week, hoisted a kick to the left and Ben Jones-Bishop - who scored in Leeds Rhinos’ Challenge Cup final defeat to Wigan Warriors in 2011 - leapt highest above Gareth Gale to expertly claim.

When Whiteley coughed up another high kick under little pressure, though, Featherstone took full advantage in the 22nd minute.

This time it was James Lockwood, the captain who rushed back to Yorkshire last night after a message his wife was going into labour, who supplied a lovely short pass for front-row colleague Craig Kopczak to crash over.

Hall did the rest but once more Ford’s side showed great character to swiftly hit back.

After Gale’s spill invited pressure, Stock was initially held up between the posts. A couple of plays later, though, the bustling forward was not denied, angling back off Danny Washbrook’s pass and weaving over for Dixon to make it 12-10.

Back-to-back tries before the break, however, seemed to put Featherstone in control.

York City Knights' Kriss Brining gets over for his try. (BRUCE ROLLINSON)

Harrison was held up from Lockwood’s latest short ball but they switched left on the next play and John Davies’ lovely floated pass sent Doyle in for his first.

Davies, the 30-year-old back-row from nearby Castleford, played centre today and flourished.

In the next set, the ex-Batley Bulldogs forward showed his strength to almost nonchalantly shrug off Bass and accelerate into space before Brown arrived in support.

With Hall improving both, York must have feared the worst heading into the break 22-10 down.

Nevertheless, they enjoyed a fine start to the second period with two quickfire tries of their own.

Admittedly, there was a touch of good fortune to them both.

Kriss Brining seemed to lose control of the ball as he stretched over on his back from dummy-half but referee Robert Hicks awarded the try.

Then, full-back Hall - with a rare error - allowed a kick to bounce 30m from his own line and it wickedly fell to the onrushing York attack.

He could not regather, ran into Gale, and Bass gleefully picked up the loose pickings for Dixon to level.

But then came the error at the restart and the contest swung into Feateherstone’s favour.

Brown’s sublime cut-out pass saw Doyle - a close-season recruit from Castleford’s academy - show great finishing technique to fend off Whiteley.

Brown’s shorter pass then sent Harrison rampaging over before Brett Ferres’ clever inside pass allowed Hall to link in and get a deserved score of his own.

Lewis showed strength to fend off Harrison and Callum Field for a York consolation and, after Chisholm’s drop-goal, Whiteley picked off Ferres’ pass for a try he will never forget.

Featherstone Rovers: Hall, Gale, Hardcastle, Davies, Doyle, Brown, Chisholm, Kopczak, Sweeting, Lockwood, Harrison, Ferres, McConnell. Subs Spence, Cooper, Field, Summers.

York City Knights: K Dixon, Jones-Bishop, Dow-Nikau, Bass, Whiteley, Lewis, Washbrook, R Dixon, Jubb, Teanby, Clarkson, Kirmond, Spears. Subs Brinning, Stock, Cuthbertson, Scott.

Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).

There's no hiding Dane Chisholm's feeling as he scores Featherstone Rovers' opener at Wembley. (BRUCE ROLLINSON)