GARY THORNTON made a strong case for the defence after seeing his York City Knights reign get off to a winning start in their charity challenge match at Huntington Stadium.

The Knights beat a York Select XIII 26-6 in their opening friendly yesterday and, while it was more workmanlike than spectacular, Thornton was satisfied with the hit-out and in particular with his team’s defensive work.

Nic Caldwell, manager of the Select side made up of amateurs from around the city, was even happier.

Not only was he “over the moon” with his charges’ effort, but he was also delighted to raise more than £1,000 for the Boxing Bowel Cancer charity set up in his wife Christine’s name after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year, aged 29.

Thornton said: “I’m delighted we were involved in a game raising money for a good cause, and thanks for everybody who came along and who contributed to that.

“It was really important we started well and I think we did that.

“We were a bit rusty and some combinations aren’t quite what they need to be. But I was particularly pleased with our defence. We set ourselves a target of keeping them scoreless. That didn’t happen as they got that try at the end but, apart from that, we were pretty solid.

“We’ve worked hard on our defence and I was pleased with what we did defending, both on our try line and in their half. We kept them to a minimum in terms of yardage.

“They had three or four consecutive sets on our line in the first half and we kept them out. We showed a lot of enthusiasm and commitment. We were working for each other.

“We had one or two timing issues. Jack Lee was a bit disappointed with a couple of forward passes. But things like that are to be expected at this time of the year. Togetherness and spirit and our desire to defend was there and that was the most pleasing. We’ve got people in our team that can score tries.”

Thornton also had praise for the Select side. “For a team of lads thrown together, their enthusiasm was fantastic,” he said. “They tested us at times and they did themselves proud.

“We’re a new side as well with a lot of new combinations. We wanted a physical game and we got that. We’ve got four pre- season games and we want to build game by game.”

Caldwell said: “I was absolutely over the moon with our lads. The commitment they showed – they were outstanding. Some of them ran their blood to water. To think they’re out of season – at times they looked really good.

“We switched off a bit at crucial times and gave some cheap ball and York capitalised, but I thought we finished the game stronger. We got a try late, which was well deserved, and we dug in. I thought we put on a good show.

“Leigh Rientoul (full-back) isn’t known for his defensive work but it was outstanding. Joe Porter carried the ball very strongly especially for a young kid playing for the first time in this intensity.

“Jonny Liddell gave us 60 very good minutes considering he hasn’t played for two years. Adam Endersby was strong, and Liam Gargan came on and looked sharp.

“You could tell Chris Stephenson is one of the best players in the National Conference League.

“We were a little bit pedestrian in the first half. We had a couple of goes on the edges when the ball didn’t stick – had it stuck things might have been different.

“But it was a good way to finish the game with that try. I’m glad we kept them out at the very end so it meant we’d had the last word.”