TWO tries in the last 13 minutes saved York City Knights from opening-day embarrassment yesterday - and left boss Gary Thornton warning Championship One won’t be a stroll in the park.
The Knights threw away a 16-6 lead against fledgling club Gloucestershire All Golds and would have fallen 18-16 down but for a missed penalty.
However, Thornton immediately threw captain Jack Lee and pack enforcer Iain Morrison back onto the pitch to turn things round, and his side responded - Pat Smith capping a Press man-of-the-match performance with a crucial try on 67 minutes against his former club, before Jason Golden sealed victory with five minutes to go.
The 26-16 result duly got York off to a winning start but most supporters expected more against a side who won only twice in their debut season last year, even if they have improved since.
Said Thornton: “We made hard work of it. It was a bit of a scratchy performance really. We never seemed to get going and we bombed a lot of chances and had two tries disallowed.
“It could have gone either way at 16-16 but we ground it out and I will give the players credit for that. I think it would’ve been a game we’d have lost by four points last year but we found that extra bit when we needed to score.”
He added: “All Golds are an unknown quantity but I thought they were excellent. They worked really hard and had a lot of spirit and never stopped going throughout. They were a challenge for us. They will have improved - their experience last year will have helped them.
“Craig Cook (former Hull and Sheffield hooker) is a quality player and he marshalled them well and was a threat like we knew he would be. They had some nice little kicks which we didn’t deal with particularly well.
“I said to the players we can’t be taken by surprise in this league now. We couldn’t do an awful lot of preparation on them, but it’s a bit of a warning that this isn’t going to be an easy league.”
As for the key decision to put Lee and impact prop Morrison back on, Thornton said: “We needed lifting to help us get back on top, getting more energy in the middle.
“I thought Lee Paterson was excellent throughout, Greg Minikin was very good when we got him involved, and Pat Smith played very well and got that game-turning try.”
He added: “There are lots of things to work on and improve on. This isn’t the finished article. It’s the first game of the season and we won’t get carried away, but we got the three points we wanted and there’s plenty of improvement in us.”
Paterson played a leader’s role at loose-forward but marred his performance when striking out at Gloucester scrum-half Danny Thomas, handing the visitors the penalty that would have put them in front. Paterson had been in possession at the time, 26 metres from his own posts.
Thornton said: “I don’t know what happened there. He’s not normally that kind of player so, while it wasn’t the right thing to do and on another day could have cost us, something must have happened to spark that reaction.”
Gloucestershire boss Brad Hepi, whose side at least left with a bonus point, said. “I’ve played against York many times and come here with really good teams, and to get a win here is always a tough ask.
“We got ourselves in a position to do that at 16-16 but for the last 25 minutes we played dumb football.
“We panicked, gave York back-to-back sets of six, and field position for them to score some soft tries.
“After 60 minutes the game was there for the taking but we then played dumb football and York took their chances well. I see it as one point gained but also as two lost.”