YORK City Knights skipper Tim Spears insisted his team could take positives out of their play-off quarter-final defeat to Toulouse Olympique as they now prepare for knockout rugby league.

York lost 44-6 at Stade Ernest Argelès yesterday but, courtesy of finishing the regular Championship season in the top three, they get a second bite of the cherry in a bid to reach the elimination semi-final - and keep alive their dreams of reaching Super League.

That will come next Saturday with a home knockout clash against the winners of tonight’s elimination quarter-final between Leigh and Featherstone (6.30pm).

Spears reckoned the Knights were unfortunate to catch Toulouse on a “white hot day”, the French outfit scoring some stunning tries to take the tie away from their game visitors.

“Losing by 40 points is always disappointing and obviously we didn’t achieve what we set out to achieve,” he said.

“But on a positive front there were aspects of that performance that were quite pleasing and the scoreline didn’t really reflect the game.

“Going in 22-6 (at half-time) didn’t reflect the first half. They got out to a good start but we clawed our way back into the game, then in the last minute of the half they came up with a really special play.

“They chanced their arm a bit - French flair or whatever you want to call it – and we got them on a white hot day when a lot of things stuck for them.”

York were missing talismanic forward Graeme Horne, impact hooker Kriss Brining, lively packman Joe Porter and big winger Perry Whiteley, while they also lost Liam Salter and Will Oakes to second-half injuries.

Spears added: “When you consider the blokes we had missing and the couple of injuries during the game, that gave us some more difficulty. It was also a very hot day and on a massive pitch.

“That’s no justification for the result and nobody wants to get beaten by scorelines like that, but, all in all, there were some aspects that were positive.”

On the French outfit, he added: “Their mentality is just different. Whether it’s about wanting to express themselves or just chancing their arm with offloads and kicks.

“When you play like that it can be rocks and diamonds in the same performance, but when it sticks there are some special tries scored and it’s really difficult to defend against.

“On another day they make mistakes and you get opportunities to build a lead. But sometimes you’ve just got to say fair play.”

Toulouse, as reward for their victory, now go to runaway table-toppers Toronto Wolfpack for a qualifying semi-final next week. The winners there go into the Grand Final while the losers meet the winners of York’s tie for the other place in the promotion showdown.

Former Featherstone skipper Spears said: “All the teams in the play-offs are high quality teams. We’ve had good wins against both Leigh and Featherstone this year.

“There are some funny scorelines in the Championship, including us getting beaten in the manner that we did (on Saturday) when in the two league games (between York and Toulouse) there was only one score in it.

“Featherstone put a big score on us at Blackpool (Summer Bash) and we beat them at home.

“I don’t think there’s much separating most of the teams in the Championship, even though some scorelines get blown out. That’s just an indication of how good some teams can be on their day when you’re not quite at the races. We know we’ll have to be at our best next week no matter what.”

Meanwhile, Spears reckoned Toulouse’s display on Saturday suggests they could yet topple big-spending odds-on favourites Toronto.

“Absolutely they can,” he argued. “They put 40 points on Toronto in the league (the Wolfpack’s only defeat of the campaign) and I do think they can beat them in a one-off game.

“Toronto will be favourites but that might help Toulouse. They’ll have no pressure on them and that might suit their mentality. They can chance their arm and when things stick they can post points on any team.

“Then again, if they get things wrong, they could get beat handsomely.

“These are exciting games and it’s all to play for for all teams.”