BOSS Gary Thornton believes the performance of his York City Knights pack yesterday suggests the club will not miss Luke Hardbottle after all – despite the former favourite’s U-turn.
Loose-forward Hardbottle, an influential member of the Knights’ 2010 promotion-winning team, was due to return to Huntington Stadium this month after his two-year spell in Australia but is now staying down under having acquired a longer visa.
The Knights, though, deservedly saw off Swinton 34-12 in their first home game of the Kingstone Press Championship campaign, and Thornton, full of praise for the part his forwards played in the victory, reckoned they “won’t miss what they haven’t had”, adding they would now keep a lookout for replacements.
The result left the new-look Knights with four points from their first two games of term – more than half the number they managed in all of 2012. Said the head coach: “It was important to get off to a good start at home.
“I think we did some really good stuff and I’m delighted with the result. They were tough conditions but the blokes handled it pretty well. I’m pleased with a lot of stuff we did out there.
“Jack Aldous was fantastic as he always is. Matty Nicholson gave us fantastic go-forward and we worked well on the back of that. We’ve been looking forward to getting him playing, and I thought he was sensational. He took some handling and made that great break in the first half. He takes some holding. I’m delighted with his contribution. The fitter he gets, the better he will be.
“Matty, Jack Aldous and Adam Sullivan did great work up front. They made some great metres for us and we capitalised on it.
“Sam Scott and Jason Golden in the back row – their work-rate is fantastic. Week in, week out you know you’re going to get 80 really good minutes from them.”
Rookie prop Austin Bell played 20 minutes off the bench, while Thornton should have fellow front-rower Luke Stenchion fit for next week’s trip to Batley, while former pack leader Paul King could return to training this week.
Thornton added: “Austin is still learning the game. He’s new to this level and it will take time. We’re managing that. Luke Stenchion has been about in the game at this level and knows what’s required. He takes some handling.”
As for Hardbottle, he said: “It’s a shame – we were looking forward to him coming back. But what you’ve never had, you don’t miss.
“If we’ve got something spare in the budget and if the right player becomes available we’ll have a look at it.”
Thornton also had praise for half-back Simon Brown, and the five dual-reg Hull players in the side. “Simon Brown showed his class. That kick for (Jack) Briscoe’s try was outstanding.
“I was a bit critical of the (dual-reg) Hull lads last week but I thought they were excellent this time. Tom Lineham was fantastic and on this right edge with Joe Arundel and Danny Nicklas they looked a threat all afternoon.
“We’re integrating them into the team still. The more they spend with us the better we’ll get.
“I’m taking it game by game but four points out of six is a good place to be.”
Getting off to a good start at home was also crucial, said Thornton, who had stressed the importance of making Huntington Stadium a “fortress”.
“We don’t want people coming here and getting an easy ride,” he said. “We want to be tough defensively and give nothing away, and when we get chances, to take them.”
Yesterday’s win was marred by injury to captain James Ford, who pulled a quad muscle in the second half.