England Knights 38 Jamaica 6: Minikin hat-trick scures Knights win

Tom Lineham scores for England Knights. Picture: PA.Tom Lineham scores for England Knights. Picture: PA.
Tom Lineham scores for England Knights. Picture: PA.
England Knights were, predictably, too good for Jamaica in the nations’ historic first meeting, but the Reggae Boys came away from Emerald Headingley with great credit.

Jamaica, who are preparing for the 2021 World Cup, trailed 28-0 at half-time, but were spirited throughout and had the better of the second period, being outscored only 10-06.

It was a good occasion; the crowd of 7,113 was a better than expected and the Carribean theme - including dancers and a steel band - made for a lively atmosphere.

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The difference in class between the teams was obvious in the first half, but Knights let themselves down after the break and their discipline in the second period - when they had a player sin-binned and conceded seven penalties to Jamaica’s three - was very poor.

Though some of the Knights players hadn’t laced a boot in anger for more than a month - and they’d had only limited time training together - it was a strong squad, drawn exclusively from Betfred Super League.

Jamaica had a smattering of Super League experience, including Huddersfield Giants’ new signing from Rhinos Ashton Golding, Wakefield Trinity’s Ben Jones-Bishop and Michael Lawrence, of Huddersfield.

But their 17 included two players from Jamaica’s domestic competition - starting prop Khamisi McKain and substitute Jenson Morris - and their hooker was former Rhinos academy player Danny Thomas, who plies his trade in the National Conference with Dewsbury Celtic.

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The rest were Championship or League One players and for a while they were oput-classed, physically and skill-wise.

Knights’ right-winger Greg Minikin - who has joined Hull KR from Castleford Tigers - scored a genuine hat-trick inside 19 minutes and from then on it was a matter of how many England would win by.

Jamaica got in England’s half only twice in the opening 40, but did much better after the break when they had the elements in their favour.

The biggest cheer of the afternoon came, on 50, when former Wakefield man Mason Caton-Brown forced his way through England’s defence from close-range and James Woodburn-Hall, of Halifax, added the extras.

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Early on the Knights looked rusty, but played some good rugby. None of the three Leeds players on duty, Harry Newman, Cameron Smith and Mikolaj Oledzki, particularly stood out, but Castleford fans will have enjoyed what they saw of new signing Danny Richardson.

The former St Helens scrum-half was an effective pivot in midfield, in the first half, created the final try and landed five conversions from seven attempts, all from close to the touchline.

With the wind at theuir backs, it took England only four minutes to open the scoring, through Minikin, who got over at the corner after Richardson, Niall Evalds and Toby King had handled.

The fact Evalds’ previous game was the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford only six days earlier illustrated the difference in pedigree between the two sides.

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The Knights had a couple of touchdowns ruled out soon after that, when Sam Powell knocked on going over from acting-half and Newman crossed after a one-two with Tom Linheham, but a forward pass was called.

Golding made a brilliant tackle to keep Newman out, but gaps were beginning to appear and Minikin were over for back-to-back tries to complete his hat-trick, the first after nice interplay between Richardson and Evalds; the second from King’s pass, with Evalds again involved.

Golding and Joe Brown held Matt English up over the line and Evalds’ pass which sent Lineham over was ruled forward, before the Warrington man touched down legitimately from Newman’s pass and in the next set Kruise Leeming sent King in.

King was sin-binned, for interference, soon after Caton-Brown’s touchdown, but Jamaica could not take advantage and England scored with their first attack of the second half, on 64 minutes, when Lineham went over again, from Evalds’ pass.

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Jamaica looked set to ‘win’ the second half until the 78th minute when Joe Greenwood ran through to touch down Richardson’s kick.

England Knights: Evalds, Lineham, Newman, King, Minikin, H Smith, Richardson, Butler, Powell, Partington, Greenwood, C Smith, Smithies. Subs Leeming, Oledzki, English, Ashworth.

Jamaica: Golding, Jones-Bishop, Brown, Caton-Brown, Johnson, Coleman, Woodburn-Hall. McKain, Thomas, Magrin, Tomlinson, Farrell, Lawrence. Subs Peltier, Andrade, Agoro, Morris.

Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).

Attendance: 7,113.