THERE were a few eyebrows raised when York City Knights allowed Tom Bush to leave Huntington Stadium at the end of last season, but fans now have reason to believe the club have brought in a more-than-able replacement.
The watching James Haynes will also know he faces a battle to reclaim his number one shirt once he gets back to full fitness.
Tom Carr, the youngster signed from Featherstone, was superb in his first run-out in a Knights shirt yesterday, when positives far outweighed negatives for new boss Gary Thornton.
The Championship side beat a York Select XIII 26-6 at Huntington Stadium in a renewal of the charity challenge after a three-year absence, previous encounters having brought one win each and a draw. The was the pro club’s most comfortable victory, their defence – breached only once, three minutes from time – playing a large part in that.
That Select try came when Carr allowed Liam Gargan’s kick to bounce over his shoulder, with the ball arrowing back in the Select side’s direction for New Earswick half-back Gargan to regather and send Heworth winger Mike Welsh sprinting home.
It was Carr’s only mistake – and even then it would have been a fantastic take had he tried to catch it – and otherwise he was safe under the high ball and dynamic when running it back.
Fans also got a glimpse of stand-off Simon Brown’s excellent field kicking game, in addition to his three goals – hopes are high the title winner with Sheffield can kick teams to death this year – and the returning Jonny Presley’s speed off the mark and tricky footwork.
The half-back pair at times linked well, too, on their first run-out together.
In the pack, Press Player of the Year Jack Aldous carried on where he’d left off in 2012 with a workaholic performance, and there were two tries for Jason Golden, back at York after his five-year Super League stint, who had been given a freer rein at loose-forward rather than being utilised, as expected, in the second row.
New prop Luke Stenchion also impressed with a couple of rumbling runs after entering the fray.
The Select team were always going to be underdogs, but they provided fine opposition.
With six ex-Knights in the ranks, including Jonny Liddell pulling strings for an hour at hooker – he’s lost none of his nous despite having not played for 20 months – and the classy Chris Stephenson, a guest player from Hull Dockers and a former National Conference League Player of the Year, orchestrating attacks from stand-off, Nic Caldwell’s charges were never going to be mugs.
But, especially considering they too are now out of season, the National Conference having switched to summer, they also showed again that the amateur game in York has a lot going for it.
Leigh Rientoul excelled at full-back, Andy Gargan was a proud skipper, and Joe Porter belied his inexperience with strong carries.
Caldwell also used the unlimited substitutions rule to good effect to keep fresh his pack, in which Adam Endersby was a standout performer. Endersby was one of those players probably wanting to prove a point, his attempts at making the grade with the Knights a few years back having not come off.
The opening quarter had been workmanlike but with a few handling errors and timing issues – Knights hooker Jack Lee threw a few too many forward passes. These could be put down to rustiness.
The pro club, though, went clear with three tries before half-time, the first through Carr, dummying and diving in from the play-the-ball after the Knights’ first full set in the danger zone. Carr’s cover tackle also prevented a quick riposte.
Then James Ford injected pace – which he did whenever he touched the ball – and, after Presley’s run and kick had forced a dropout, the ball was moved left where Ford finished what he had started.
Presley had a try from a Brown kick ruled out for offside and Carr just failed to get on the end of a Presley grubber, but reward for the Knights’ dominance came on half-time as Golden touched down after a high Brown chip had caused consternation in the defence.
In the second half, Tyler Craig, first receiver from a penalty, somehow reached over the line when held up at the posts to increase the Knights’ lead, before good work between Brown and Presley saw Golden race 30 metres home.
The Select side had earlier gone close when a break from Stephenson opened up the pro outfit only for Knights sub Luke Tomlinson to fly back and haul down Rientoul. But they finally got their reward through Welsh, Antony Chilton goaling.
Knights: Carr, Dent, Ford, Lyons, Nobbs, Brown, Presley, Joynt, Lee, Aldous, Scott, Smith, Golden. Subs: Craig, Brining, Stenchion, Poutney, Tomlinson, Iley, Hemmings.
Tries: Carr 20; Ford 33; Golden 40, 71; Craig 53. Goals: Brown 3/5.
York Select: Rientoul, Welsh, Hyde, Farrell, Dunmore, Stephenson, Elliott, Embleton, Liddell, Endersby, Eccles, Hill, A Gargan. Subs: L Gargan, Porter, D Caldwell, McTigue, Bunby, Woods, Chilton, Varley.
Tries: Welsh 77. Goals: Chilton 1/1.
Referee: Jamie Bloem (Halifax).