"AN inch away" from another stunning victory.

That was head coach James Ford's verdict after York City Knights were edged 30-26 away to full-timers Toulouse Olympique in another Betfred Championship thriller.

Home hooker Anthony Marion got the last try of a ding-dong contest with six minutes to go - Matty Marsh having a later effort ruled out at the other end when the officials decided he did not touch down Connor Robinson's kick.

Ford duly left with mixed emotions. His injury-hit side had been 16-1 outsiders but again showed why they sit comfortably in the top half of the Championship, competing with more moneyed rivals. Yet he insisted he did not want to be a "nearly team".

Said Ford: "There was not a lot in it, with two good sides having a real dig.

"I'm very proud of our efforts. From one to 19, everyone played their part.

"We were an inch away from winning the game.

"Connor's come up with a chip play and Matty says he's grounded it. He was probably fouled as well. But the touch judge has ruled it was not a try.

"That's the decision. If we score that, we win the game.

"But we weren't quite good enough. Referees and touch judges are paid to make those decisions and we will go with it. Sometimes they go for you and sometimes they go against you. We're gutted."

He added: "It's promising. We've got to build on this and use it for confidence and as a marker. But it's also a reminder we're not quite there.

"We're not happy about being a 'nearly team'. We want to close the gap on sides like Toulouse."

Asked if the overriding emotion was one of pride or disappointment, he said: "It's very rare you have just one emotion.

"I'm gutted for the boys that they haven't got the league points. They deserved them.

"But we came up against a very good side and I'm really proud of our efforts. The boys went out there and worked their socks off and there were some outstanding individual efforts in a very strong team performance."

The Knights ultimately paid for crucial mistakes. Toulouse - second in the league - immediately replied to York's opener after Marsh erred under the restart kick, and they got their winner when defenders seemed to have Marion wrapped up but allowed him to find a touchdown.

Ford reasoned: "That's often the way in rugby league - if you come up with an error or penalty, good sides punish you.

"Toulouse are a very good side. They're very attack-minded and they react quickly to errors and they're dangerous from anywhere on the field.

"This might sound contradictory but, although we conceded 30 points, I thought defensively we were very good for large parts of the game. Toulouse are a tremendous side with the ball."

It was put to Ford that, although it was a defeat, this was another match and performance that showed the Knights deserved to be in the upper echelons of the Championship - as opposed to relegation candidates as some pundits had predicted.

He replied: "We believe in ourselves and this team always gives everything they've got - it's ridiculous if anyone suggests otherwise.

"They love playing for this city and they love playing for each other. I'm proud of their efforts. Every week I'm chuffed to bits about their efforts.

"We're not going to share our goals with anyone. We're just going to keep working hard quietly and we'll see where that takes us."

Asked who stood out on the pitch, Ford said: "It's difficult to single anyone out after that effort. Pretty much everyone was impressive, one to 19. Even the blokes that did not play, it was a case of being the best team-mate they could be, helping the blokes in the side.

"We're going in the right direction.

"Around two years ago, we lost to Oxford. Now, we've just come away to a side that put 40-odd points on Toronto and we're gutted we haven't won. We had a chance to win."

Cain Southernwood made his Knights debut at half-back on loan from Hunslet before being withdrawn in the third quarter, with York thereafter coming from 24-16 down to lead 26-24 only to be hit with a sucker punch.

Ford said: "Cain hasn't played for a while but he showed positive involvements and he was central to one of our tries.

"We just wanted to push Matty Marsh up into the halves for the last half-hour, and it nearly worked.

"He believes he scored at the end, only the bloke whose opinion matters most did not. It's cruel but that's sport."