YORK Knights fell to a 36-20 defeat on the opening day of the Betfred Championship season to league newcomers Doncaster.

The Knights headed into the opening day against newly-promoted Doncaster, who had high aspirations in a division higher.

Henderson named six changes from the side that defeated Oldham 46-12 in the AB Sundecks 1895 cup quarter final two weeks ago, with the inclusion of two debutants amongst the Knights.

Tom Lineham and Tom Nicholson-Watton made their first starts for the club after the pair signed on Wednesday afternoon, whilst Oli Field and Joe Brown returned after recovering from illness.

Ata Hingano and Ronan Michael were both reintegrated after recovering from injuries, whilst Brad Ward’s switch to Newcastle Thunder last week meant that he dropped out of the squad, whilst Harvey Reynolds moved in the 18th man role.

Jordan Thompson, Jesse Dee and Will Dagger all missed out through suspension, along with captain Liam Harris and forward Brenden Santi, who were absent after picking up injuries.

Doncaster themselves had recruited well in the Summer, but were without Joe Lovodua through suspension after joining from Betfred Super League side Hull FC.

The hosts also boasted six former Knights in their ranks, with Brad Hey, Ben Johnston, Connor Robinson, Sam Smeaton, Tyla Hepi and Pauli Pauli, who played for York last campaign, all involved.

Doncaster were newly-promoted after an impressive third-placed finish in the Betfred League One last campaign, but Henderson had reaffirmed that he wouldn’t be taking the opening day for granted, labelling the hosts as ‘dark horses’ for the season.

With that being said, Henderson will have been hoping for a strong start from his side.

But it was Doncaster who were on top early on, taking advantage of a few errors from York which would eventually lead to a breakthrough in the scoring.

An early penalty conceded in the first minute set the tone early on, before Williams was forced to put a cross-field kick with Doncaster forcing pressure on the half-back.

The hosts had a nearly moment as Robinson’s pass towards Alex Sutcliffe fell wide of second-rower, despite occupying space inside the York ten-yard line.

York wouldn’t have their first set until the 10th minute, with an error from Suaia Matagi allowing the Knights to attack down the left, before AJ Towse was forced into touch by the corner flag.

Another York error saw Doncaster fail to capitalise, but it wouldn’t be long until the Dons could find their breakthrough.

A well-worked move allowed Craig Hall to push the ball left and into Tom Halliday, with the Doncaster star touching down on the left-hand side. Robinson made no mistake in converting.

And just two minutes later, Doncaster added depth to their scoreline. A mistake from Towse on Robinson’s high-kick saw the Knight drop possession into the path of Ben Johnston, who raced in behind for the Dons’ second try. Robinson again converted.

A 12-0 lead for the hosts saw York react in the right manner, forcing both Johnston and Tyla Hepi into errors, with Myles Harrison looking to take advantage on the right-hand side, only to be denied by some strong Doncaster defending.

But with the Knights now in control of play, a long kick forward from Richie Myler forced a mistake in the Doncaster back line, with Teanby racing onto the loose ball to claim York’s first try of the afternoon. Williams expertly converted.

The Knights could feel the tide turning in their favour as another high kick from Myler forced Hall into possession, with York forcing the ball into touch, earning a scrum on the Doncaster 20.

And from that scrum, York looked to potentially pull level as a sensational pass from Joe Brown found Towse on the left-corner, with the homegrown talent able to touchdown through a crowd of bodies.

The conversion was missed by Williams, hitting wide of the posts, but it was an encouraging end to a narrow first-half in South Yorkshire.

But the Knights wouldn’t carry that into the second-half, with Doncaster responding to York’s pressure after the restart.

Former York forward Pauli made his impact for the Dons when bundling the ball over the line from close-range, bagging the try just two minutes into the second-half. Robinson converted.

A wide pass from Hall allowed Halliday the space to cut inside of the York defence, beating four players before securing the try. Robinson couldn’t continue his hot streak from the conversion, striking wide of the posts.

And four minutes later the Dons were celebrating again, as captain and former Knight Sam Smeaton met another impressive pass from Hall, before touching down for another Doncaster try. Robinson converted again.

York were clearly being frustrated by Doncaster, and were being forced not errors as a wide pass from Myler was spilled by Towse, before the Knights gave away a penalty for a high challenge just moments later.

But a foul from Ukuma Ta’ai directly in front of the posts, after interfering with the ruck, saw the referee award Doncaster a penalty in a dangerous position.

Robinson happily kicked home, with the Dons establishing a 20 point lead

The Knights did mount some late fightback, as Josh Daley capped off a dummy-half scoot with an impressive finish in the left corner. Williams converted.

And Tom Lineham would register his first try for the club on his second debut, producing an outstanding finish in the right corner from a shift play. Williams missed the following conversion.

But for York’s late efforts, Doncaster would end an impressive display with another fine finish from Pauli against his former club, driving the ball over the line. Robinson again converted.

A losing start to the season for the Knights, who will feel there are improvements to be made heading into their return to the LNER Community Stadium in two week’s time.

DONCASTER: Hall, Briscoe, Lyne, Hey, Halliday, Johnston, Robinson, Knowles, Burns, Matagi, Sutcliffe, Smeaton, McConnell

INTERCHANGES: Pauli, Hepi, Boas, Ferres

18th PLAYER: Guzdek

TRIES: Halliday (17, 48), Johnston (20), Pauli (42, 80), Smeaton (52)

GOALS: Robinson 6/7

YORK KNIGHTS: Brown, Lineham, Harrison, Keinhorst, Towse, Williams, Myler, Ta’ai, Jubb, Fitzsimmons, Field, Bailey, Nicholson-Watton

INTERCHANGES: Daley, Hingano, Michael, Teanby

18th PLAYER: Reynolds

TRIES: Teanby (33), Towse (37), Daley (68), Lineham (72)

GOALS: Williams 2/4

POINTS SEQUENCE: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, 12-4, 12-6, 12-10, 16-10, 18-10, 22-10, 26-10, 28-10, 30-10, 30-14, 30-16, 30-20, 34-20, 36-20

HALF TIME: 12-10

YORK’S STAR MAN: Ata Hingano. Made a difference when he was introduced, and played a big part in the Knights’ tries.