BOTH teams may have wanted to win but only one needed to win as York City Knights took on Newcastle at Bootham Crescent in the last game of League One’s Super 8s.

The visitors needed the spoils to make the play-offs and they did do – just – when holding onto a 26-24 victory, which allied to defeats for Doncaster and Keighley at top two Toronto and Barrow respectively, saw the Tynesiders nick the last semi-final spot.

For York, already assured of fourth, it was more about preparing for next week’s semi-final at Whitehaven and avoiding any more injuries having seen Jonny Presley and Jake Butler-Fleming this week join the long-term crocks in the treatment room.

The first objective was met, regardless of the result, but the second was not, with star man Liam Harris helped off after a ridiculous late high shoulder shot, and young centre Adam Swift stretchered off at the end with what looked like a serious knee injury.

There had been early concerns as Newcastle, desperate for victory, threw in a few cheap shots, and that came right to the fore midway through the second half.

The off-the-ball hit on potential Press Player of the Year Harris was so late the majority of spectators, following the ball, were watching Harry Tyson-Wilson continue the attack before realising Harris was left poleaxed in back play after a wonderful run out of defence.

Newcastle winger Dan Parker somehow escaped with a yellow card. Surely a lengthy suspension awaits.

The big winners here were Whitehaven, who may not now have to face the sparkling Harris in the semi-finals.

Still, here’s hoping both these sides win next week and meet back here for the final, when the Knights, with their first-choice side out, will have chance to exact revenge, even if Parker himself is banned.

The late departure of Swift, Butler-Fleming’s replacement, not long after he’d scored his first try for the club, just made matters worse.

Ford was always going to prioritise the semi-final over this game and that showed in his selection, with Joe Batchelor and Brad Hey again rested, Adam Robinson not risking his hamstring, and the likes of hooker Harry Carter and veteran winger Tommy Saxton given runs after injury.

It meant another new-look back line with fit-again Harris returning at full-back, and Ben Dent featuring at centre for the first time.

Jordan Cox was back in the second row but saw little action. Liam Thompson kept his place, and, while being an outsider for next week may now get a look-in, likewise packman Ryan Mallinder, who came onto the bench.

Dual-reg hooker Will Jubb was given a run as interchange back-row, a role he is unlikely to fill next week.

Newcastle have a sizeable posse of ex-Knights in their squad. Peter Fox, the York-born ex-England winger, big Brett Waller and playmaker Danny Nicklas were not fit, while former Heworth junior Tyler Craig, looking forward to playing at his old stomping ground, was only 18th man.

Jack Aldous, York’s 2016 skipper, was at loose-forward and there were places in the pack for his brother Harry, plus Thunder stalwarts Rhys Clarke and Matty Barron.

Benn Hardcastle, talented but hit-and-miss during his time at York, had a fine game at half-back.

Knock-ons in the greasy early rain were plentiful, and while York failed to profit, Newcastle did do after Dent fumbled in his own danger zone as Evan Simons got over too easily from acting-half. Hardcastle goaled.

Dent thought he had made amends when sliding onto Connor Robinson’s grubber after York were handed more easy territory, but referee John McMullen ruled the try out.

There was no ruling out the next, old stager Andy Ellis with a classy finish from dummy-half after Newcastle had committed more two fouls.

Harris has been a revelation this term although his inexperience cost his side after 28 minutes as he gave away a needless scrum in the red zone.

Mallinder had knocked on and Newcastle ran the free play, before hacking forward.

Harris got to the ball in acres of space, but thinking it was now dead, with play to be brought back for a scrum from the original fumble, he booted the ball out by the corner flag. But it was Thunder’s advantage and the scrum instead took place where the ball went out.

Immediately, Hardcastle’s excellent little pass, and a miss-read in defence, saw full-back Tom Shaw pierce the short side for a 10-6 lead.

Penalties continued to rack up against the visitors, with York also getting the ball back after best set of the half, led by Joe Porter’s run and quick play-the-ball.

But Hardcastle kicked an excellent 40-20 and York were again caught out from a quick restart, Aaron Teroi scoring from acting-half.

As the sun came out, the sides attacked and countered with more pace, Newcastle upping their lead to 20-6 on the half-time hooter as centre Derrell Olpherts skipped clean through the line, showing why Salford have signed him for 2018. The tackling will have to be better next week.

For the second time, Hardcastle hit a post with the conversion.

As things stood, with Keighley losing at Barrow, Newcastle were in the play-offs, and they began the second period were renewed purpose.

York still had a Swift try ruled out, the centre deemed to have fouled as he challenged for the ball under a Robinson kick.

And then they did close the gap, fit-again Carter showing what he brings to the team with a scooting run and touchdown from acting-half.

The late hit on Harris came on 57 minutes and, while Thunder were down to 12, a splendid move created space for winger Morrison to score, Robinson goaling from out wide to bring York to within two points.

Het up by that dirty foul, the crowd, perhaps for the first time, wanted to knock Newcastle out of the play-offs.

However, just before they went back to 13, a good move create space likewise for Shaw to get his second at the other end, Hardcastle’s conversion from out wide crucially making to 26-18 with 13 minutes left.

It was back in the balance with seven-and-a-half minutes to go as some cracking running rugby got the ball to Saxton. The veteran had Swift outside him and gave the younger, pacier man the chance to sprint home, Robinson goaling again.

But Thunder held on and in York’s last real attack they lost Swift after a freak collision.