YORK City Knights coach James Ford was asked before kick off what the target was for the game, how many points did they want to keep Toronto down to.

The Knights, after all, were playing against a full-time team bursting with NRL, Super League and top-end Championship experience. A moneybags team who had swept all before them in Kingstone Press League One, including York 64-22 in Canada. A club who are expected to breeze to promotion in this tier and the tier above.

Ford looked back with a steely, slightly annoyed look. “What? We want to win.”

Most rugby league fans up and down the country, on the other side of the Atlantic too, may have scoffed.

What followed, though, was arguably the best, most notable result not only of this season or under this new regime, but probably in the history of the club since they were reborn in 2002. Probably for decades before that too.

The Knights won 26-16. The Wolfpack lost their unbeaten record, their invincible tag ripped up.

Andy Gomersall, who has been watching York for 69 years, who hasn’t missed a game in 19 years, was asked what he could remember surpassing this as a shock result.

“I recall us beating Leeds in the second round of the cup in 1958, and Leeds were really strong then.”

The new regime had sold the transatlantic fixture so well that they smashed the recent crowd records at Bootham Crescent.

What Ford’s men did on the pitch sold the club even more. There really is a genuine feeling of going places.

“I told you we’d win,” stated Ford afterwards, still slightly angry that he’d even been asked.

Just think – this time last year, the old hierarchy had called off the opening fixture of the Super 8s under the threat of closing down the club. Many fans had left, players were about follow suit. What the new broom has brought is pretty astonishing.

Ford made six changes in personnel to the side that nilled Workington in the last of the regular season fixtures.

Skipper Ed Smith was ruled out with his knee injury – fears are growing his season is over – and into the second-row came the wonderfully-named Zeus Silk for his debut after his deadline day arrival on loan from Hull. He played like he had been here all season.

Also on debut was on loan Hull KR centre Jake Butler-Fleming – James Haynes dropping to the bench despite his hat-trick heroics against Worky. The Aussie showed plenty of class and scored a debut try too.

Dual-reg boys Liam Harris, fit again, and Kieran Moran, after his ban, were back at stand-off and prop respectively, while front-rowers Chris Siddons and Ronan Dixon also returned. The packmen worked so hard; Harris was a constant livewire, simply a joy to watch.

Out went Mitch Clark, Graeme Horne and George Lawler, who have all returned to Hull KR after their brief dual-reg switch, half-back Harry Tyson-Wilson and hooker Andy Ellis. The latter’s absence meant Ford trusted Will Jubb as the sole hooker. And why not?

Toronto may or may not have made changes – either way they had a team which, on paper, should be competing in the Middle Eights at least, never mind League One.

To add to the disbelief, Ford only used 16 men. Haynes was not needed.

York asked all the early questions. Two knock-ons and three penalties kept play in the visitors’ half, with the Wolfpack on a team warning too.

Then the noise went up several notches.

Ash Robson burst onto the scene and, while his pass was loose, Butler-Fleming scooped it up wonderfully well and skipped past full-back Quentin Laulu Togagae.

Toronto only got into York’s first half after the restart and immediately showed their threat, denied a clear chance only by a forward pass.

Then came more noise.

QLT, under pressure, dropped the ball 40 metres from his own line, and Harris picked it up and cruised to the sticks.

Ryan Brierley was sin-binned for dissent before the restart. The Wolfpack were clearly rattled.

The 12 men went close, though, on the back of their first penalty – big Jack Bussey unceremoniously held up.

Two more penalties gave them another chance, as did a lucky ricochet.

But York broke out, big Adam Robinson on the charge – a quarter-chance offload to Harris going to ground.

In the reverse clash, York were blown away by 10 tries in 27 minutes either side of half-time.

There was no sign of that here. Indeed, it was the Knights who so nearly extended their lead, Jubb reaching over from dummy-half, only for the try to be disallowed for a double movement.

Then they did score again.

Harris bamboozled everyone so much that he almost bamboozled himself before breaking through and somehow evading the full-back. More noise than even before.

Connor Robinson added his third conversion and the Knights were 18-0 up on the half-time hooter.

Chants of “Oo are yer?” as the Wolfpack left the field. More noise as the Knights went into the changing rooms.

The interval came too soon, though.

The Knights were seemingly still in the sheds when Brierley scored a simple try at the sticks, Craig Hall converting.

Then, when an attack broke down, Brierley’s kick forced a dropout. Out came the offloads and Bob Beswick dummied in from dummy-half, Hall goaling.

Surely here came the inevitable game-changing Wolfpack onslaught.

Not so. Ford sent pack leader Tim Spears back on. Immediately the Knights looked better, soon forcing a dropout.

However, when Connor Robinson spotted a gap and tried to kick in behind, it was picked off and out came the Wolfpack again. Hall thought he had scored but, like Jubb, was penalised for a double movement.

Then the Knights looked sure to cross – Joe Batchelor striding through only to be ankle-tapped with the whitewash otherwise at his mercy.

Ash Robson was held up over the line, too, while a Robinson dab saw the defence just get to the ball first.

They did eke their lead up, though, after Robson, dashing and darting, won a penalty for a high shot, Robinson obliging.

Bussey’s foul also went on report. There had been a few other dirty old tricks from the Wolfpack that escaped censure.

However, the Wolfpack immediately hit back – and it was a wholly avoidable try.

Connor Robinson risked an offload in his own half and it ended in the visitors’ hands.

Robson got back to halt Kay, but from the play-the-ball, former Super League centre Hall went on the short side and left Brad Hey punching the ground in frustration as he broke his tackle to touch down.

Hall’s conversion hit a post, leaving it 20-16.

Toronto were soon down to 12 men for another 10 minutes, though. Bussey, playing on the edge of the rules all day, was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle on Silk.

The Knights went so close – desperate defence just denying Joe Porter.

Then came more noise even than before.

Harris was again the creator with a dummy and one-handed pass. Butler-Fleming was up there with him and he sent Connor Robinson diving over the whitewash. The scrum-half goaled and it was 26-16 with 10 minutes left.

Most teams usually need lots of fortune to pull off such a massive shock result as this. The Knights were far from reliant on Lady Luck but she smiled on them when a cut-out pass gave Jonny Pownall an easy finish down the wing – only for the Wolfpack winger to inexplicably bounce the ball down.

The clock ticked down. The Wolfpack were desperate. They lost their ball in their own half. Robson had sight of the try-line but was pulled back by a forward pass.

One try could yet have changed the game. However, Hall’s dab, with team-mates in space, was far too strong and the ball ran dead.

With it went their hopes. The Wolfpack will still march to promotion, but York will always be the team to have spoiled their perfect record, on a frankly brilliant day at Bootham Crescent.