BOSS Gary Thornton warned his charges to keep their feet on the ground after they broke a five-year hoodoo to send York City Knights to the top of Championship One’s early standings.
Tries by Greg Minikin, the Smith brothers Ed and Pat, Jonny Presley, Ben Dent and man-of-the-match Lee Paterson gave the Knights a 28-26 win at South Leeds Stadium – their first victory over arch-foes, and title favourites, Hunslet Hawks since 2009.
They are only two games into the new season, though, and Thornton pointed out that what mattered most was where they finished the campaign.
“We’ve set a marker down, but we’ve got to be sensible,” he said.
“We’re only two games in. We were underdogs, given that everyone is tipping Hunslet to win the league, and we won, but we’ve got to keep grounded.
“This is only the second game of a long season, and it’s all about peaking in the play-offs in September – that hasn’t changed. The focus has got to be the play-offs and the grand final.”
The first half-hour brought four tries without reply, but only one conversion was added and two home touchdowns cut the half-time deficit to 18-8. The Knights then took the score to 28-14 before two tries in the last four minutes flattered the home side.
“I’m obviously delighted with the win,” Thornton added. “We’ve been working really hard towards this. Even a lot of our preparation for the Gloucestershire All Golds game last week was geared towards this match.
“For the first 30 minutes, we executed the game plan really well. I’m a bit disappointed with the way the first half finished, but the effort overall was absolutely fantastic and I’m delighted for the boys.”
Thornton had words of praise for dual-registration duo Jake Webster, at centre, and Ben Reynolds, at full-back. But he reckoned the victory was built in the forwards, saying: “Michael Haley is a handful, as is James Houston, but I thought we were tremendous in the middle and I think that’s where the game was won.”
He also defended the decision to include Webster, who needed special dispensation, as an overseas player, to play on dual-reg as he works his way back to full fitness for parent club Castleford.
“Jake Webster came in because James Ford was not fit,” said Thornton. “It would have been hard on young James Morland (who played against Gloucestershire) to throw him in again in such a big game.
“We had an opportunity to bring Jake in and, although he hadn’t played for 12 months, he did well for us.
“He’s a good guy. He even said thanks to the boys for letting him play with us. He’s played at the highest level so you’d expect him to come here and handle it. But I’m just as pleased with his attitude – he’s been fantastic for us.
“Ben Reynolds looked very accustomed to playing at the back for us – that’s the benefit of him training with us for three weeks.”
Second-row Jason Golden came off in the second half with a suspected dislocated shoulder – the same shoulder he had reconstructed last year after a bad dislocation – but the player said after the game that it “popped straight back in” and he doesn’t think it is a serious injury.
Thornton expects Golden to sit out next week’s Challenge Cup tie at home to Whitehaven but added: “I don’t think it’s anywhere near as bad as last year.”