YORK Knights head coach Andrew Henderson had no complaints as his side fell to a 20-14 defeat to Toulouse Olympique in their home Betfred Championship opener at the LNER Community Stadium this afternoon.

A Maxime Stefani double either side of a Robin Brochon penalty put the visitors in control early on, with Guy Armitage also finding the whitewash before Sylvain Houles’ side were reduced to 12 men after Harrison Hansen’s straight red card for a high tackle on Myles Harrison.

Brochon struck first from the tee after the restart before Sitaleki Akauola was given his marching orders after knocking out Ronan Michael, but despite late tries from Joe Brown, Connor Bailey and the returning Jesse Dee, the Knights could not quite find enough to propel themselves across the line against their 11-man opponents.

“It was a strange game, wasn't it,” Henderson reflected.

“I think we showed at times some really good effort in defence today, which is something we worked on during the week.

“But ultimately, I just felt that over the course of the 80 minutes we didn’t play with enough smarts, we didn’t pick the right passes or the right options at the right time, and I felt we looked a little bit clunky in our attack if I'm honest.

“We got a little bit flustered. We just didn't look smooth. We didn't show enough patience and composure and our execution I felt let us down at times today across the 80 minutes.

“I'm not going to take away from the effort of some of the players. I thought that we did show some good effort.

“But ultimately, I know the scoreline says it's 20-14, but the reality is, we weren't the better team today, and we weren't close enough to them either.”

York struggled from the outset against their full-time opponents, who came within a whisker of promotion to the sport’s top flight at the end of the 2023 season, with an 18-point half-time deficit putting the points out of arm’s reach by the interval.

Chance after chance went begging for the Knights, who could not quite find the final pass to unlock the visitors’ defence, despite playing well over half the match with a numerical advantage.

“I thought Toulouse came out and really started well,” Henderson admitted.

“They sucker-punched us early with that early try, we tried to recover after that and then they got us with two tries on last plays where we maybe had a little bit of a defensive lapse there.

“You just can’t do that, you can’t clock off, especially against a team like Toulouse. With the smarts and the ability that they have, they just unlocked us there.

“At half-time we were 18-0 down and we were really struggling to get a foothold in the game, really, really struggling.

“And then we came out in the second half and I thought showed some encouraging signs early on, but again, that last pass, that last bit of execution, wasn’t just quite right.

"We couldn’t put them under any real pressure until the back end of the game and we were able to get a couple of consolation tries to make the scoreline respectable.

“It’s a tough one to take again today, but we always knew it was going to be a tough assignment, Toulouse are a quality side and last year’s Grand Finalists for a reason.”

York Press: The Knights found things tough-going against Toulouse.The Knights found things tough-going against Toulouse. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

The Knights showed six changes from their Championship opener at Doncaster two weeks ago, with Dee and captain Liam Harris both notably handed starts upon their return from their respective suspension and injury.

But they were missing the sparks offered by Richie Myler, sidelined for three months after undergoing elbow surgery, and both full-back Will Dagger and loose forward Jordan Thompson, serving the final of their two-match bans after incidents in the Knights' Betfred Challenge Cup defeat to Sheffield Eagles earlier this month.

“When I was up a the top [of the West Stand] with the coaches, I was saying that when they went down to 11 men, we’re not even showing the urgency to get the play, or we’re carrying without proper support.

“I was thinking ‘do we want to win this game?’

“That’s what it felt like to me, a little bit like how much we were really looking like we wanted to win it because it was an opportunity there.

“Obviously Toulouse, through their own wrongdoing, presented us with an opportunity to get back into the game and potentially nick it, but we just didn’t have that spark.

“I don’t think that we were on the same page today, if that makes sense. I felt that the guys were trying and working, but just not quite connected.”