THE Huntington Stadium faithful have had to wait a while but they finally got what they paid for yesterday as York City Knights kicked off their home campaign with a splendid all-round performance and a first Championship win since June.
Swinton were the losers by 26-22 the last time the Knights picked up full points, and they were on the receiving end again yesterday, although this time they were sent packing over the Pennines without even a bonus point as Gary Thornton’s side gave the best display seen at Monks Cross since the televised victory over Halifax at the end of 2011.
The 34-12 final scoreline was deserved, too.
Although it needed determined goalline defence to keep Swinton out a number of times, not least in the third quarter, the Knights should have been further than 10-4 ahead at half-time, with Jack Briscoe and James Ford fluffing gilt-edged chances, amid other opportunities.
Both players made amends before the interval, though, and when the Lions twice threatened a comeback in the second half, the Knights struck back with two-try salvos both times.
The manner of victory suggests that, unlike in 2012, this will not be York’s only win of term – and hopefully such form will persuade stay-away supporters to come back quickly. The attendance of 532 really is embarrassing for everyone else who was there, and such a shame for new boss Thornton and his new-look crew who, on this showing, deserve better.
Not least the hard-working forwards.
Second-rows Jason Golden and Sam Scott put in massive shifts, and props Jack Aldous and Matty Nicholson provided defensive hits where it hurts and great go-forward. Indeed, much more of that, and Paul King, last year’s pack leader, might not force his way back in the side should he agree new terms.
Behind them, Simon Brown showed why he was such a big off-season signing for York, with smart play at stand-off and, more so, a killer kicking game.
Half-back partner Danny Nicklas might have booted the biggest 40-20 seen at the ground for years – it was more like a 20-10 – but it was Brown who so many times turned the opponents around.
Twice from dropouts he sent the ball sailing over Swinton heads, sinking their hearts each time. He also booted five conversions, several from the touchline, while his kick to create a Briscoe try was sublime.
An offload by Tyrone McCarthy – the biggest name among Swinton’s four dual-reg Warrington players – played a key part in the game’s first try, scored after three minutes by Dan Birkett, who himself was one of five ex-Warrington players in their 17, bringing the (ex) Wolves contingent in their ranks to nine.
However, over the 80 minutes, they were each outplayed by their opposite numbers, and ultimately York’s five dual-reg lads from Hull had a far bigger say, bagging five of the hosts’ six tries.
It was the sole-reg York players who provided the platform, though, not least the starting props.
Their work should have been rewarded with a try when smart play sent the ball left where Ford drew two men and gave Briscoe the scoring pass – only for the dual-reg winger to bounce the ball down.
Reward did come soon after, though, Briscoe this time making no mistake after a carbon-copy move.
Nicholson blotted his copybook when he lost the ball in trying to get it free close to the try-line, and another great chance went begging when Brown sent Ford through, his inside pass to Scott being fired too high and hard.
York also turned down the chance for a two-pointer only to see the attack end with Tom Lineham bundled into touch by the right flag.
But they finally added to their lead as great work in centrefield by Carr saw skipper Ford sprint clear.
Briscoe fumbled the ball dead to give away a soft dropout, which ushered in five consecutive Swinton sets, but fine defence, and those enormous half-volleys from Brown, kept the eight-point lead intact at half-time, Brown just off-target with a long-range penalty on the hooter.
Veteran half-back Ian Watson, such a clever player for Swinton, and James Laithwaite were both halted inches short as Swinton began the second half much crisper, with their pressure paying off via a good finish by Jordan Burke.
However, just like York had been hit by sucker punches at Whitehaven, so they hit Swinton.
Joe Arundel, who played for Hull against Leeds last week, showed Super League class to intercept a Josh Barlow pass and give club-mate Lineham the chance to finish well.
Brown’s kick to the corner was likewise out of the top drawer for Briscoe to score.
Jack Morrison crashed over to again give Swinton hope at 24-12 down with ten minutes left. But smart work by Brown and Carr saw Arundel finish superbly, twisting through on the run, and the icing was put on the cake when Arundel’s good run and pass out of the back door saw Lineham dart in for his fourth try in two games back at the Knights.
Knights: Carr 7, Lineham 8, Ford 7, Arundel 8, Briscoe 6, Brown 9, Nicklas 6, Nicholson 9, Lee 7, Aldous 9, Scott 8, Golden 7, Hadley 7. Subs (all used): Presley 6, E Smith 6, Bell 6, Sullivan 7.
Tries: Briscoe 13, 62; Ford 31; Lineham 58, 80; Arundel 73.
Conversions: Brown 13, 31, 58, 62, 80.
Swinton: Burke, Birkett, Shaw, Ainscough, Ballard, O’Brien, Watson, Riley, Smith, Morrison, McCarthy, Laithwaite, Barlow. Subs (all used): Dwyer, Mills, D Hawkyard, R Hawkyard.
Tries: Birkett 3; Burke 52; Morrison 70.
Man of the match: the go-forward provided by props Matty Nicholson and Jack Aldous was a big feature of the win, with Nicholson getting the award on the toss of a coin.
Referee: Dave Merrick (Castleford) – quite good.
Weather: cold and wet.
Moment of the match: Joe Arundel was reasonably quiet but produced three pieces of magic which were crucial in the context of the match – he set up both of Tom Lineham’s well-taken tries, and, with perhaps the pick of the lot, produced a superb finish, twisting through on the run to end Swinton’s hopes.
Gaffe of the match: Jack Briscoe, the young dual-reg Hull winger was in at the corner but bounced the ball, the first of a few first-half misses by York. He did score from a carbon-copy move minutes later, though.
Gamebreaker: there was a threat of a comeback when Swinton reduced the deficit to 12 points with ten minutes left, but York struck back quickly through Arundel’s try.
Match rating: really good stuff.