HEAD coach James Ford hailed the impact on debut of stellar loan signing Junior Vaivai after the American international scored one and made the winner as York City Knights stunned Widnes Vikings 16-12 at Halton Stadium.

Beaten here in the Challenge Cup in April, the Knights were on course for defeat again as they trailed 12-10 in the final quarter, having needed some superb defence to stay in the contest for much of the second half.

But then, against the run of play, Vaivai came up with a miraculous offload for fellow Hull KR loanee Will Oakes to score what turned out to be the winner, the Knights completing a league double over the former Super League side to go back up to third in the Championship.

Former NRL player Vaivai, a shock loan signing on Thursday, had earlier combined with Oakes to gift the Vikings one of their two first-half tries but had also scored a power-packed equaliser.

Ford said: “I thought Junior was exceptional.

“I thought he really caused them trouble on the edges. He will have an awful amount of tackle-busts. He was beating defenders and creating opportunities for Will to score, and getting out of yardage.

“There were a couple of decent defensive plays as well.”

He added: “It reminded me of what (former loan player) Jake Butler-Fleming did. He had footwork to beat defenders, he didn’t have any defensive misses in him, he created space for his winger, and he gave us more strike threat.

“I was really happy with what Junior did. He looked happy and I’m pleased to have him here.”

On the winner Vaivai created, Ford added: “I like that kind of centre play – bit of skill, bit of footwork as well as being a big physical thing. It was good to see.

“He can offer us a bit more threat and make opportunities for the wingers."

On Oakes, Ford said: “Will finished (his chance) well.

“He had a solid game and there were some key involvements at the back end where he’s carrying us out of yardage.”

On the mistake that gifted Joe Lyons a try, Ford added: “It wasn’t a great play from Will but he didn’t let it affect the rest of his game. He got better as the game went on and had some strong involvements to help get us home.”

This result came on the back of York’s heavy Summer Bash loss to Featherstone last week.

Ford said: “I was immensely proud of our defensive effort and resilience to defend our goal-line for large periods of the game.

“What also pleased me is we wanted to attack a little better (than against Featherstone). We didn’t get too many opportunities with the ball because we came up with a couple of errors, but when we did execute, I did fancy us to post more points than we have done recently.”

On some last-gasp defensive efforts - epitomised when Kriss Brining and Perry Whiteley got underneath Keanon Brand to deny the Vikings centre a second-half try which could have sealed the game, and later when loanee Harry Aldous pulled off a try-saver on Lyons after a Whiteley error - Ford said: “There’s a whole heap of togetherness here.

“Sometimes we might get a system wrong but the effort and endeavour is there.”

On North Yorkshire-born former scholarship star Brining, he added: “Kriss loves it, he loves playing for this club, and he’s found an amazing effort to get under the ball and stop Keanon – who’s a good player, by the way - from scoring.

“It’s the same as young Harry Aldous. We’ve come up with an error on a kick return and he (Aldous) has got no right to get back and force that error and save us the game.

“It’s those little acts like that that do contribute massively to the outcome of games and the outcome of seasons.”

Asked if there were any new injury concerns after the game, Ford quipped: “No. They’ve probably taken 10 years off my life in the last 10 minutes, but that’s about it.”