THE start to York City Knights’ 2021 Betfred Championship season ended in a 21-6 defeat to promotion favourites Toulouse Olympique.

York made a dream start through Ben Jones-Bishop’s run-away try but a professional and hard-fought showing from the French giants saw them take control in the second period.

Efforts from Mitch Garbutt and Joe Bretherton added to Dominique Peyroux’s score and secured an opening round win for the team-to-beat.

Widely known for their expansive offensive, they were forced into more attritional and dogged rugby league by York.

For the Knights, an inability to capitalise on good ball was their undoing though, it must be said, a close defeat to a full-time outfit is certainly no disgrace.

York were able to hand a competitive debut to half-back Riley Dean after the Warrington Wolves loanee was made unavailable by his parent club for the Betfred Challenge Cup fixtures at the start of the season.

The Knights were though however without captain Chris Clarkson due to a sore achilles, with centre Liam Salter moving into the back row in his stead.

In the bright and warm conditions, both sides made a thunderous start to proceedings, with Toulouse coming off worse in the physical exchanges.

After just five minutes, Junior Vaivai and Latrell Schaumkel were forced to be withdrawn through injuries.

Losing bodies would eventually be a tale of the first 40 minutes as York had to take off Jordan Baldwinson and Danny Kirmond, neither of whom would return.

York were having the best of the chances and were putting pressure on the Toulouse goal-line defence on the back of penalties.

But, it was from their own try line that they eventually made the breakthrough.

After back-to-back penalties to Toulouse, Mark Kheirallah attempted a cut-out pass which Jones-Bishop intercepted before racing the near length of the field to the whitewash.

York very nearly doubled that lead moments later when, after a classy Brendan O’Hagan 40/20, Kieran Dixon - who converted the previous Jones-Bishop try - was penalised for a double movement in the corner.

The Knights continued to look threatening when a cut-out pass from O’Hagan set away Jones-Bishop down the right flank, but his inside kick carried far too much weight.

In last week’s win at London Broncos, York were on the wrong side of the penalty count and their ill-discipline proved costly in Toulouse’s response.

After being caught offside, the French side had the field position to allow Dominique Peyroux to barge past Danny Kirmond in the left corner.

Anthony Marion’s conversion struck the post, leaving York ahead by two points.

Just after the half hour mark, Toulouse opted to go for goal from a penalty close to the York line, underlining the close and fast-paced nature of the game.

Marion made no mistake on this occasion to level the scores.

Shortly before half-time, the make-shift half-back Marion attempted a drop-goal but was well off target with the kick.

There did remain time though for Toulouse to have another attempt on goal when they were awarded a penalty seconds before the hooter.

Marion had the easy task of scoring from under the posts to put the visitors 8-6 ahead at the break.

York were the quickest out of the blocks after the restart but were lacking in proficiency in good ball.

Danny Washbrook cheaply coughed up possession from the play the ball before Dixon took the wrong option out wide and was too easily put into touch.

And, as the best sides do, York were duly punished. Ryan Atkins lost the ball close to his line and, having battled through a tough defensive set, Toulouse’s pressure was too strong with Mitch Garbutt charging onto a short ball to cross.

A third Marion goal sent them into an eight-point lead.

The simmering tension between the two sides boiled over slightly soon after, with a scuffle breaking out after a high shot on Jones-Bishop.

But York couldn’t capitalise on the penalty with Atkins judged offside from O’Hagan cross field kick.

As the hour mark turned, the class of Toulouse began to show as their quick hands down the left saw prop forward Joe Bretherton have a dive in by the flag.

Marion’s missed goal meant Olympique led by just two-scores.

York were creating plenty of chances still, the best of them being a miscued offload from Adam Cuthbertson that almost set away Dean for the line.

That pattern of a clinical Toulouse scoring at crucial moments resumed once more though as they marched upfield and Marion scored a third penalty goal with a dozen minutes to go.

York’s spirits were not dampened as the game entered its final minutes. But Tyme Dow-Nikau being pushed into touch off the back of successive penalties seemed to sum up their afternoon.

Seconds before the hooter, Lloyd White sent over a drop goal to cap a strong display.

York: Marsh, Jones-Bishop, Dow-Nikau, Atkins, K Dixon, Dean, O’Hagan, Baldwinson, Jubb, Teanby, Salter, Kirmond, Spears.

Subs (all used): Green, Porter, Washbrook, Cuthbertson.

Tries: Jones-Bishop (12)

Goals: K Dixon (1/1)

Toulouse: Kheirallah, Bergal, Jussaume, Vaivai, Schaumkel, Ford, Marion, Bretherton, White, Hansen, Dixon, Peyroux, Paulo.

Subs (all used): Pelissier, Puech, Casty, Garbutt.

Tries: Peyroux (19), Garbutt (49), Bretherton (60)

Goals: Marion (4/6)

Field Goals: White (80)

York’s Star Man: Joe Porter. Had to do big minutes as Baldwinson and Kirmond went off injured and was still a tireless runner