YORK City Knights fell to a 20-14 defeat to Sheffield Eagles at the LNER Community Stadium to leave them winless from their two opening Betfred Championship matches.

Here are five things we learnt from the weekend’s contest.

1. The Knights’ half-back pairing will take time to develop

York have been unable to field a consistent pairing in the halves early on this year as a result of injuries, ineligible players and new signings arriving.

Against Sheffield, Brendan O’Hagan and Joe Keyes were named as the two half-backs and become the fourth different duo to be used in the last four matches played.

A raft of off-season signings and now mid-season loans as well as a mounting injury list has meant that consistency in selection has been in short supply so far for York in 2021.

However, if the Knights can tie down Keyes to a longer-term deal than his current fortnight loan, as agreed last week, then an O’Hagan-Keyes partnership looks particularly threatening on paper.

Both players showed their undoubted talent, with O’Hagan’s grubbers setting up tries for Will Jubb and Kieran Dixon while Keyes got stronger as the game progressed and glimpses of his strong running game were on display.

There will undoubtedly be more to come from Keyes, who was making his first competitive appearance since September last year, having been unable to force his way into the starting line-up at Betfred Super League side Hull Kingston Rovers.

2. York’s injury concerns continue to grow

The Knights have had rotten luck with injuries so far this year and their problems continued to mount when they faced Sheffield on Sunday.

Already missing eight key first-team players, including six forwards, they were without Marcus Stock, Joe Porter and Jubb by the end, with the former pair both taken off due to head knocks while the latter picked up a shoulder injury.

Head coach James Ford has put together a larger squad this year, one would think for this eventuality, and his use of his charges will be put to the test over the coming weeks.

3. No lack of effort from York

Even in defeat, York’s effort levels could not be questioned and, in scoring through Liam Salter late on, they did at least manage to force one final last-gasp chance.

Ultimately though they had left it too late to reduce the game to within one score, but it was yet another demonstration of the fight possessed within the Knights’ ranks.

4. Sheffield Eagles are shaping up as major contenders for 2021

When York City Knights kicked off the domestic 2021 season with a convincing 30-6 victory away to Sheffield in the Betfred Challenge Cup first round, some may have been quick to write off the Eagles’ chances of challenging the top Championship sides this year.

Since then though, Sheffield have produced two major upsets by thrashing Bradford Bulls 50-12 before seeing off York at the weekend.

Of course, it would be foolish to rush to grand, sweeping judgements after just two league rounds but the early signs for Sheffield look hugely encouraging.

An ability to put major points on the board was shown as they ran in 10 tries against Bradford.

Then, at York, they were also able more patiently build a lead through sustained pressure and clever end-of-set kicking before stubbornly defending that advantage in the second half.

While York were priced as significant favourites, due credit should go the visitors for a disciplined and all-round solid performance.

5. Best wishes are sent to Sheffield’s Paddy Burns

Immediately after half-time, Sheffield interchange Paddy Burns had to be stretchered from the field after coming off worse in the first tackle of the second period.

The game was delayed for several minutes while the medical officials took their time to ensure Burns could safely be escorted from the field.

Thankfully, the RFL reported that he was “up on his feet in the dressing room” later on and it should be hoped he makes a full recovery.