YORK coach James Ford says he was “really proud”, both to have coached the ambitious club in the first Rugby League match at the new LNER Stadium, and of his side’s performance in their pre-season match against Super League Hull.
The visitors won their first game under new Australian coach Brett Hodgson 28-22, but had to withstand an attempted fightback by their hosts from the Championship after being 22 points ahead after an hour.
Hull were dominant in the opening period as Adam Swift, Mahe Fonua, Carlos Tuimavave and Manu Ma’u touched down, with Marc Sneyd adding three conversions, and scored again through Chris Satae in the second half, with Ben McNamara adding the goal.
But York, whose first try at their new home came after 30 minutes through Riley Dean, with Kieran Dixon converting, had the better of the final 20 minutes, when Ben Jones-Bishop, Liam Salter and Tyme Dow-Nikau crossed and Brendan O’Hagan kicked two goals.
The City Knights have come a long way since having to play League 1 games at local community club Heworth in 2015, when Ford became coach, and coming close to going out of existence in 2016, before current chairman Jon Flatman led a takeover.
The new 8,500-capacity stadium is shared with York City Football Club, and Ford said: “It meant a lot to finally be able to coach the team here, and now we can start to focus on the future of a club which has massive potential.”
Both sides handed debuts to former Wests Tigers halfbacks – in Hull’s case, experienced former NRL ace Josh Reynolds, who played a key role in each of his side’s first three tries, and in York’s, 22-year-old O’Hagan, one of a raft of new signings.