LIGHTNING couldn’t quite strike twice – but boy did York City Knights give it a good go.

After their stunning win over moneymen Toronto Wolfpack in 2017, there were hopes James Ford’s promoted team could begin life back in the Betfred Championship with a thunderous bang against the same opposition at Bootham Crescent.

But while they made a real fist of it, it wasn’t to be as the star-studded Wolfpack eked out a 14-0 victory.

The bookies have the full-time Canadian outfit, the pioneering Transatlantic club littered with NRL and Super League talent, as odds-on favourites for the title and a place in the top flight come 2020, just three years after their inception.

In front of the Sky Sports cameras, the gallant Knights let them know it won’t be as easy as some might think – the visitors holding only a slender 4-0 lead heading towards the last 10 minutes. But, with York having few chances to score at the other end, their class ultimately told.

For the Knights, this loss should be anything but a downer.

Nobody expected them to get anything from the game other than a good hiding so to push the Wolfpack so close should bolster confidence for the season ahead. If they replicate these defensive efforts in particular in the months to come, they will surely go well in this tier.

Toronto fielded all six of their big new signings, all of whom underlined what kind of squad new boss, the four-time Super League-winning coach, Brian McDermott has at his disposal.

Samoa star Ricky Leutele, brought in from Cronulla Sharks, was in the centres with another ex-NRL ace, Kiwi international Chase Stanley.

Former Widnes captain Joe Mellor went in at half-back alongside Aussie Josh McCrone, a veteran of 150 NRL matches, and his ex-Vikings team-mate Tom Olbison was up top alongside cult hero Ashton Sims, another man with vast NRL and Super League pedigree.

Bodene Thompson, another from the NRL, and St Helens legend Jon Wilkin, at loose-forward, also started in the pack. French international prop Gadwin Springer, who joined from Castleford, was named on the bench but for some reason did not feature.

In all, six of the Wolfpack’s 17 had played in the NRL before and nine in Super League – stats that sum up the task facing Ford’s part-time troops.

The Knights lined up as expected, with Jason Bass, who was with minnows Coventry last season, chucked in at the deep end at centre opposite Leutele, Dave Petersen having the task of filling crocked skipper Tim Spears’ big boots at loose-forward, and Kriss Brining, who has returned to the club from Salford, providing impact as interchange hooker.

Bass was very good and Petersen got through a mountain of work.

Perry Whiteley got the nod ahead of Judah Mazive for the left-wing spot.

Including former dual-reg ace Matty Marsh, York’s 17 included 11 of last year’s League One-winning squad, the newcomers being Bass, Petersen, Brining, Liam Salter and props Jack Teanby and Jack Blagbrough. Salter and Teanby were candidates for man of the match.

Half-back Connor Robinson, the League One Player of the Year, led the team out as stand-in captain.

Toronto’s movement, as well as full-time power and pace, caused problems early on and, after going close on the right, they had a try on the left rightly ruled out for a knock-on forced by scrambling defence. York were switched on, though.

A big hit by Ben Cockayne - another to excel defensively - and a tackle which forced a spill by Sims lifted the home crowd but they were then angered by a clutch of penalties the Wolfpack’s way, two of which led directly to the deadlock being broken 24 minutes in.

Sub prop Adam Sidlow was held on his back over the try-line by Bass and Salter but Salter then knocked on when trying to gather a bobbling kick and the Wolfpack scored from the scrum through winger Gary Wheeler in the right corner.

Brining’s introduction saw two immediate big hits – the first seeing a posse drive Olbison back 15 yards, the second conceding a penalty for a tip-tackle.

Toronto looked rattled – mistakes creeping in.

They also had cause for frustration due to York’s superb defence – Salter, Marsh and Ash Robson somehow denying Leutele a touchdown after some brilliant handling by the visitors.

Toronto made three errors early in the second half and York had tails up, but the visitors soon re-set themselves and lifted the pace, forcing a dropout. They looked sure to score but McCrone was held up at the whitewash and the Knights’ scrambling defence survived.

They won another dropout but again the Knights’ defence was up to the task. Indeed it remained only 4-0 heading into the final quarter.

While they were shining defensively, however, York did not often look like scoring so needed an attacking spark from somewhere.

Graeme Horne nearly provided it with a reverse ball that had Teanby on the charge but the Wolfpack got back and winger Wheeler just escaped the in-goal area when gathering Robinson’s grubber at the end of the set.

When Toronto attacked again, Matty Russell was shoved into touch near the left flag. However, he did score on 69 minutes – albeit with help from the officials.

York were firstly pinged for a high tackle, a decision which angered the Main Stand crowd, and Russell scored from a pass so far forward it nearly landed in next week.

There looked little way back for the Knights and Toronto sealed their win in the last minute as Mellor touched down from a McCrone grubber.