DESPITE a late comeback, York Knights could not find quite enough to get themselves across the line as they fell to a 14-20 defeat against 11-man Toulouse Olympique in their Betfred Championship home opener at the LNE R Community Stadium.

Both Harrison Hansen and Sitaleki Akauola were given their marching orders after hits on Myles Harrison and Ronan Michael either side of half-time, but that did little to derail Sylvain Houles’ side, who were firmly on top for the majority of the contest.

Second-rower Maxime Stefani headed the visitors’ tries with a brace inside the opening 23 minutes, with Guy Armitage also adding his name to the scoresheet as they took in a healthy 18-point lead at the interval.

A 54th-minute Robin Brochon penalty saw Toulouse extend their advantage, for the Knights, although enjoying some attacking field position at times, were lacking an attacking spark.

Joe Brown, Connor Bailey and the returning Jesse Dee made the scoreline more respectable inside the last 10 minutes, but their tries proved a mere consolation as York’s wait for a first win of the new Championship season extends into a third round.

Head coach Andrew Henderson made six changes from the side that began the league campaign with defeat at Doncaster two weeks ago, handing Hull FC loanee Charlie Severs his debut alongside Oli Field in the second row.

Dee returned at centre after serving his suspension, whilst Ata Hingano and Liam Harris lined up in the halves, and Josh Daley at hooker.

Michael got the nod for a first start of the season alongside Ukuma Ta’ai at prop after returning from shoulder surgery.

Toulouse were unchanged from their 24-22 defeat at Sheffield Eagles on the opening day, fielding a side including former Wigan Warriors half-back Jake Shorrocks and experienced forward Anthony Marion.

The Knights appeared under the cosh from the outset against their full-time opponents, with Michael using his strength to somehow prevent the game’s first goal-line drop out with just two minutes played.

And it was perhaps little surprise when the visitors opened the scoring five minutes later, Shorrocks’ kick landing favourably for Armitage, who fed Stefani to race away under the posts.

Brochon added the extras in the first of four successful attempts from the tee.

Despite a strong defensive set from the resultant kick-off, Toulouse were soon able to extend their lead, Brochon opting to take the two points on offer after Harrison had strayed into touch as he looked to collect Shorrocks’ kick.

The Knights saw their first opportunity just after the quarter-hour when Dee carved out an opening on the right edge, but his offload close to the line instead found Toulouse hands.

However, the ball was proving as elusive for the visitors, who could not keep possession from a six-again as they bore down on the whitewash.

York should have brought themselves onto the scoreboard just before the 20-minute mark after Bailey broke through the Toulouse line, but Dee could not find a teammate as he looked for one final offload.

Instead it was the visitors who extended their advantage two minutes later, prop Lambert Belmas forcing his way through a gap in the York defence before finding Stefani to score his second of the afternoon.

However, it was not long before Toulouse found themselves down to 12 men, Thaler dismissing Hansen after he had caught Harrison high as he retrieved a kick on the last. The Knights’ full-back headed down the tunnel for a HIA to be replaced by Harvey Reynolds.

York Press: Toulouse's ill-discipline saw them shown two red cards.Toulouse's ill-discipline saw them shown two red cards. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

Leeds Rhinos loanee Tom Nicholson-Watton was penalised for a forward pass before Hingano’s grubber forced Toulouse to concede the game’s first goal-line drop-out, but a poor offload inside the 10-metre line left the visitors breathing a sigh of relief.

Dee was bundled into touch on the right wing as the Knights continued to look for an opening, but they instead found themselves further behind, Ryan Rivett able to run unopposed before finding the supporting Armitage to cross to the left of the posts.

Brochon missed his only attempt from the tee, but a York penalty that failed to find touch on the hooter, typified a first-half in which they found themselves with an 18-point half-time deficit.

Henderson had called for the Knights to come out fighting after the break, and they looked to have done so within a minute of the restart when Conor Fitzsimmons forced a ball spill, but Brown and Nicholson-Watton were brought down within metres of the whitewash.

Despite their man-disadvantage, Toulouse showed little sign of letting up in their attack, winning a perhaps dubious scrum on the 10-metre line before York were penalised for a tip-tackle.

Brochon again opted for the tee, striking the ball well from 30 metres to score the visitors’ final points of the afternoon with 25 minutes remaining.

However, the visitors’ ill-discipline soon continued, with former Warrington Wolves star Akauola sent off after knocking out Michael on halfway just after the hour.

Once the Irish prop had been gingerly helped from the field, Dee saw another wayward offload fall into Toulouse hands, before Harris’ grubber rebounded to a grateful Paul Marcon as chances continued to go begging against the 11-men.

York Press: Joe Brown kickstarted the Knights' comeback, but it was too little, too late to claim victory.Joe Brown kickstarted the Knights' comeback, but it was too little, too late to claim victory. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

But the Knights did bring themselves onto the scoreboard with nine minutes remaining, Brown finishing acrobatically into the right corner after a neat show of hands.

Harris was unable to add the extras from the tight angle but made no mistake from the tee five minutes later after a fantastic drive from Reynolds set up Bailey to power his way across from close range.

And the Knights scored a third and final try on the full-time hooter, Dee winning the footrace to Bailey’s grubber to touch down to the right of the posts before Harrison floated the conversion wide.

The Knights will be hoping to record their first points of the new season when they travel to Barrow Raiders on Sunday (3pm).

YORK KNIGHTS: Harrison, Brown, Dee, Keinhorst, Lineham, Hingano, Harris, Ta’ai, Daley, Michael, Field, Severs, Bailey.

INTERCHANGES: Fitzsimmons, Teanby, Reynolds, Nicholson-Watton

TRIES: Brown (71), Bailey (76), Dee (80)

GOALS: Harris 1/2, Harrison 0/1

TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE: Brochon, Marcon, Jussaume, Armitage, Ulberg, Rivett, Shorrocks, Belmas, Gahan, Hansen, Peryoux, Stefani, Marion.

INTERCHANGES: Akauola, Bretherton, Roumanos, Richards

TRIES: Stefani (7, 23), Armitage (36)

GOALS: Brochon 4/5

RED CARD: Hansen (27), Akauola (62)


POINTS SEQUENCE: 0-4, 0-6, 0-8, 0-12, 0-14, 0-18, 0-20, 4-20, 8-20, 10-20, 14-20.

YORK’S STAR MAN: Tom Lineham. A solid shift in both attack and defence from the winger, on an afternoon of little standout for the Knights.

REFEREE: Ben Thaler