GARY THORNTON bemoaned a game-changing nine-minute spell which brought about a 32-22 defeat in York City Knights’ Championship opener at Whitehaven – but he praised his team for the late salvo that earned a bonus point.
The Knights were well in the game, and getting on top, before three quick tries in the last 12 minutes sent the Cumbrians, now bossed by former York coach Dave Woods, clear on the scoreboard.
Winger Tom Lineham, the former Knights and York College protégé who is back at Huntington Stadium on dual-reg from Hull, scored two tries in the last two minutes to gain Thornton’s team a point.
Said the head coach: “I’m disappointed we didn’t win the game but I’m delighted with the response when we looked out of it but came back with two tries to go away with a point when we didn’t look like getting anything.
“They were pretty evenly-matched teams. We were in control for long periods, but we could not capitalise on that pressure.
“We’ll build on it in that we’re a new team getting to know each other. It will come.
“It was an arm wrestle on a heavy pitch, not set for open rugby. I think we completed about every set coming out of our own half but the mistakes came in the opposition half. We’ve got work to do on our fluidity and gelling.
“We wanted the win but at least we came away with something. A bonus point will have to do.
“Whitehaven defended well and we came up with some poor options. We spent time on their try-line but didn’t play the right plays, or people were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
As for Haven’s game-turning try against the run of play, which put them 20-12 up with 12 minutes to go, and was followed by two more quick tries, Thornton said: “It affected us mentally.
“But, going 20-odd points behind, you want a reaction and we got that. We kept going right to the end and I’m really pleased.”
Thornton reckoned Sam Scott was “immense” in the second row, with Jack Lee and Jason Golden also outstanding in the pack, and he had words of praise for Lineham, who capped a fine all-round game with his late brace, which combined strength, athleticism and sheer pace.
“He’s got that in his game and we’re delighted to have him,” he said. “We’ll have to see but hopefully we can have him for long periods. He showed how dangerous he can be at this level.”
The Knights will assess Matty Nicholson in training tomorrow night, the prop having pulled out of yesterday’s game in the warm-up due to a groin problem.
Second-row Ed Smith had also failed a fitness test, but prop Adam Sullivan was back and James Haynes also got ten more minutes of game-time – his first competitive run-out since 2011 – as a second-half substitute for centre Jack Latus, the new trialist from Hull.
Thornton said: “Matty is one of our starting props and gives us go-forward, so losing him set us back. But I’m not using that as an excuse in any way. We should have enough to cope.”
Meanwhile, Woods was not a happy man after the game – displeased by the fact the Knights snatched a bonus point.
“It’s three points won and that’s the main thing. That’s what we wanted and what we worked hard for,” said the Aussie, who is still in dispute with the Huntington Stadium club about his departure 16 months ago.
“But I’m disappointed with what happened at the end. I’m not happy with the finish.”