JAMES FORD believes that the kicking of the half-backs was the difference between York City Knights and Sheffield Eagles.

York fell to a 20-14 defeat to Sheffield to leave them winless from their opening two matches in the 2021 Betfred Championship.

The Eagles' veteran scrum-half Anthony Thackeray produced a typically influential display with two tries and a masterful kicking game all on show in the first half.

Wave after wave of Sheffield attacks came in the first 40 minutes and the visitors profited from it by scoring a decisive 18 points.

“That was massive," said York head coach Ford of the first-half pressure his side were under.

"If you factor in the repeat sets and, then we got tackled into touch on a kick return from a really good kick from Sheffield, and then we’ve come up with two, possibly three, seven-tackle sets with poorly executed kicks.

“I think the main difference between the sides was the ability of the halves to effectively kick.

“I thought that Thackeray kicked the ball tremendously well and we didn’t. We’ll aspire to be better and we will be better.

“I thought Sheffield were good. You would describe them as scintillating last week (in a 50-12 win over Bradford Bulls) and against us they played pretty much how we want to play.

“The amount of repeat sets that they got against us - I think there were six in the first half - that really tipped the game their way."

The Knights fought back admirably in the second half and a dramatic finale was on the cards when Liam Salter reduced the deficit to one score with his late solo try.

But ultimately, the first-half work from Sheffield proved too much overturn.

Ford added: “I thought we were better in the second half and we gave ourselves a chance of pinching it.

"I just think that the position Sheffield had got themselves into with the repeat sets and us not dealing with their threats as we’d planned to put them out a little bit too far in front.

“The boys ripped in and worked their backsides off. This defeat won’t define our season, we’ve got 20-odd games left and we’ll get better every week.

“There’s a lot of new players and new combinations and we’re being tested at the minute with the boys that are missing.

"But I don’t want to make any excuses and I wanted to again congratulate Sheffield on their performance.”