FORMER captain Scott Rhodes declared York City Knights had an excellent chance of bouncing straight back up to the Kingstone Press Championship after watching them take apart his York Select side.
The Knights beat the amateur representative team 70-14 at Huntington Stadium yesterday to complete their pre-season fixture programme on a high note.
They have lost to Super League side Castleford and Championship champions Sheffield this winter but have beaten Championship One rivals Gateshead, and Rhodes reckoned the manner of this latest victory should leave them very much among the favourites, alongside arch-rivals Hunslet, for the sole promotion spot.
“I think they’ll have a great chance of going up,” said the 33-year-old, who had been a key part of the Knights’ 2005 National League Two (Championship One) title-winning side.
“They’ve got a good structure and some good, young, strong lads coming through – that Greg Minikin is a fantastic young player. They’re very pacy around half-back, and they’ve got the likes of James Ford who’s always strong. The back row looks good and Iain Morrison runs direct and hard.
“They’ve got a really good chance, there’s no doubt about that.”
Rhodes has had some run-ins with the pro club while coach of York Acorn ARLC but new partnerships between the outfits have seen relations improve, so much so Rhodes coached from the sidelines yesterday wearing a Knights scarf.
He added: “It was obviously pretty one-sided. It didn’t help that we made a terrible start to the game. We got dominated on the floor and technically we couldn’t keep up with them – they were far too strong. We did our best, worked hard and never gave in. We were just outclassed.
“They went pretty much full-strength – they couldn’t have put a much better side out – so we knew we would struggle. They did well against Sheffield and if a side can take Sheffield close they must be doing pretty well.”
Knights boss Gary Thornton was pretty happy.
“It’s difficult going into these games as you’re on a hiding to nothing – most of the time people expect you to score lots of points,” he said. “But I was very pleased with the attitude which was very good throughout.
“We conceded three tries which I’m a bit disappointed about – that’s no disrespect to the Select side but we clicked off a bit at times. But overall I’m delighted with the way we went about things.”
Thornton was delighted with Morrison’s impact during his 30 minutes off the bench and was hopeful the hamstring problem which forced him back off again was not serious.
“How big a crowd favourite is he going to be?” he said. “He gave us a real lift – you could see the enthusiasm running through the team. I think he’s going to be an excellent signing. We worked hard to get him and, although it’s not been easy for him with his job and work commitments, I think he’ll be good value.
“His hamstring tightened up a bit but it’s just a strain not a tear. People like that don’t want to come off but we took him off for his own well-being and to make sure it’s nothing more serious.”