HEAD coach Gary Thornton wasn’t sure what to be more concerned about after York City Knights’ defeat at Batley – the 42-4 scoreline or the stack of injuries his side suffered.
Thornton tried not to dwell on the refereeing performance of George Stokes, which he felt contributed to the seven-tries-to-one result, with controversial decisions “changing the complexion of the game”.
Instead, he turned attentions to next week’s visit to Huntington Stadium of Halifax, who, like Batley, are one of the Kingstone Press Championship’s so-called top five.
“We’ve got to put a side together now for next week, which might not be easy,” he said.
“The scoreline is bigger than we expected or wanted but I don’t think it tells the full story. The boys dug in and we finished with only 13 fit players.
“They fought courageously against a massive penalty count and some really, really tough (refereeing) calls.
“We will take some positives, although there are a lot of negatives.
“Batley are a good team and this is always a tough place to come. I’m really disappointed with the scoreline but not with the efforts of the players.”
Thornton began yesterday’s game without Tom Lineham, scorer of four tries in two games, after he was recalled by parent club Hull following injury to fellow winger Jason Crookes in the Airlie Birds’ Super League draw with St Helens on Friday.
He ended it with a bare 13 fit players and one of them, trialist Jack Latus, played the last half-hour with a sprained ankle.
Prop Matt Nicholson, hooker Jack Lee and scrum-half Danny Nicklas all went off with shoulder injuries, Nicholson most worryingly suffering a recurrence of an old problem, while Austin Bell was helped off with a hip injury.
“As soon as we lost Matty Nicholson we were in trouble,” said Thornton. “We’re not the biggest of packs and I knew it’d be hard to hold the Batley forwards in the middle – they’re a big unit.
“That said, I don’t think we lost the game there. Their back three – the two wingers and the full-back killed us coming out of their own 20. They did it too easily.
"The back three got them on the front foot and when you’ve got the quality of Ben Black playing on the back of good go-forward, it’s difficult to defend against. They were making too many yards for my liking. We knew that’s what they do, but didn’t counteract it.”
The Knights had trailed only 10-6 when they had stand-off Simon Brown sin-binned on 33 minutes for dissent.
Four minutes later, Jonny Presley had a try controversially ruled out by Stokes, after which Batley went up the other end to score their second try, despite an apparent forward pass in the build-up. A third try followed on the half-time hooter.
“It was frustration and I can see why,” said Thornton of Brown’s yellow card. “The officials weren’t talking to players to tell them why we were being penalised. If you don’t know what you’re doing wrong how do you know to correct it?
“Then Tom Carr makes a great break and the pass inside looks perfect. Jonny Presley scores and we’re 10-6 up at half-time. Tom and Jonny are pretty honest blokes and Jonny said there was nothing wrong with it. All the players around it were fuming.
“It was a good try and it puts a different complexion on things. We’d go in 10-6 up but instead we’re going in 18-4 down and deflated.
“Every 50-50 call went their way and every 50-50 bounce of the ball went their way. We didn’t get anything from the officials or the rub of the green.”