HEROIC James Haynes admitted he wanted to “cry for his mum” as he played through the pain barrier to help York City Knights seal top spot in Championship One.
Haynes, who had only passed fit to play 44 hours before Sunday’s game at arch-rivals Hunslet after suffering concussion a week earlier, damaged ribs early on in the first half, with physios suspecting broken bones.
The 25-year-old full-back should have come off the field but repeatedly insisted he would carry on, and he went on to kick the last-minute winning goal to cap his The Press man of the match performance.
“It was my first carry. I’ve gone into contact and popped a rib,” he explained. “But it’s a big game. I wanted to play. It was the first time I’d ever played against Hunslet Hawks – I was either injured or not picked for previous games.
“There was no-one to come on and play full-back so I knew I had to carry on. I got it strapped up at half-time and played on.”
Asked how he coped with the pain, he joked: “It’s a matter of mind over matter.
“There were a couple of times I got tackled and wanted to stay down, shout for my mum and cry.
“It was tough, but adrenalin helps at the time. I don’t feel as though it had a detrimental effect on my game.”
The Knights' 20-18 triumph – courtesy of two tries in the last five minutes – set a new club record of nine consecutive victories and made it three wins out of three this season against the Hawks, who had gone into the match in second place.
Only Oldham can mathematically catch the Knights now but they must overturn a points-difference deficit of 161 points in their last two matches of the regular season and hope York pick up nothing at home to London Skolars in their one remaining game on September 7.
Top spot gives a supposedly easier route to the play-offs grand final, the winners of which are the only side promoted to the new-look Championship.
“It gives us an advantage in the play-offs,” said Haynes, with first place all but secured. “We celebrated it after the game but we haven’t finished the job.
“We get nothing for winning the league. It’s all about winning the play-offs. We set a goal to finish as high as we could and then go for it in the play-offs, and we can’t finish higher than first.”
He added: “I feel Hunslet were the best in the league that we’ve played so far. They gave us everything. It was one of those games where something would give. It was us or them and it could have gone either way.
“The fact we’ve won so many games on the trot means we’ve got that winning mentality and we found a way to win.”
The Knights now have two weekends off, with no league game next weekend due to the Challenge Cup final and then a free week in the fixture list.
“It’s a good thing for me as I hope I will be okay for the Skolars game,” he said when asked if the break comes at a good time.
As for his prospects of being fit, he added: “It’s painkillers and play on, as long as I’m selected.”