Match Preview: Toronto Wolfpack vs York City Knights

Match preview by Doug Thomson, League Express
Match Date: Saturday July 1st, 2017
Time: 19:00 EDT (00.00 Sunday July 2nd BST)
Venue: Lamport Stadium, Toronto

WOLFPACK READY FOR DUEL WITH CITY KNIGHTS

YORK City Knights are the latest visitors to the Lamport Stadium – and the Wolfpack will be fully focused on making sure it’s not unlucky 13.

Paul Rowley’s table-toppers clinched a 12th win from 12 League One games by beating Hunslet 56-12, taking their total points tally past the 700-mark in the process.

The Wolfpack remain two points clear of Whitehaven at the top with three games to go before the Super Eights.

This is likely to be a tough assignment as York will arrive in buoyant mood after winning seven of their last eight league games.

Only Whitehaven have got the better of them in recent times – and they were made to work very hard for an 18-16 success.

James Ford’s side are fourth after beating Keighley Cougars 25-18 last time out.

YORK

Toronto was known as York between 1793 and 1834, named after Frederick, Duke of York and Albany and the second son of George III, King of Great Britain and Ireland.

But the original York, the English home of the City Knights, goes back almost 2,000 years.

It has been said the story of York is one of Romans, Vikings, churches and chocolate.

Dominated by its Minster, a 13th Century Gothic cathedral, the walled city was founded by the Ancient Romans as Eboracum in 71AD.

From the late Ninth and into the Tenth Century, York was under Viking rule and became a major river port (it straddles the Ouse).

In the later Middle Ages, the city grew as a leading wool trading centre and with its spectacular Minster, became the Church of England’s Northern headquarters.

Guy Fawkes, of Gunpowder Plot fame, was born and educated in York, while the during the English Civil War, the Battle of Marston Moor, the largest ever fought on English soil, took place near the city in 1644.

Equidistant from London and Edinburgh, the capitals of England and Scotland, York became a railway hub in the 19th Century, when renowned chocolate manufacturers Rowntree’s, the creator of the Kit Kat bar, and Terry’s were established.

A major centre for tourism, York has a population of more than 150,000.

YORK CITY KNIGHTS

The original York club was founded in 1868 and had its heyday in the 1930s.

Rather than be a founder member of the Northern Union (later Rugby League) in 1895, the club remained loyal to the Rugby Union until 1901.

Having played on a series of pitches, including York’s famous Knavesmire racecourse, the club had built its own ground, Clarence Street, close to the city centre, in 1885.

York, who won the Yorkshire Cup in 1922, made it to Wembley in 1931, losing to Halifax in the Challenge Cup final, and won the Yorkshire Cup twice more in the next five years.

Fast forward to 1981, when there was no third tier of professional Rugby League, and York won promotion as Second Division champions and got to the Challenge Cup semi-finals in 1984. They again won promotion to the top flight in 1985, but lasted just a season before dropping back down.

Five years later, strapped for finances and facing a big bill for the safety work needed to make their ground fit for purpose, York sold Clarence Street to a housing developer and moved to the council-financed Huntington Stadium on the outskirts of the city.

Renamed Ryedale-York, then the York Wasps, and amid falling attendances and poor results, the club, which had produced seven Great Britain internationals, went bankrupt and was dissolved shortly before the 2002 season.

Since being relaunched in 2003, York City Knights have played in either the second or third tier.

The high spot for the current club was winning the Championship One (now League One) Grand Final in 2010.

York left the Huntington Stadium and ground shared with nearby amateur club Heworth for a year before moving into soccer club York City’s Bootham Crescent stadium in 2016.

KEY BATTLES

York captain Ed Smith has been turning heads this season, and there is speculation the second row could follow fellow club junior products Greg Minikin (now at Castleford) and Kriss Brining (Salford) into Super League, with both Wakefield and Salford said to be keen.

Smith’s fellow back row Joe Batchelor, brother of Wakefield’s James, has been among the tries in recent matches.

Fullback Ash Robson, who was born in York, has been a big hit with fans since joining from Castleford during the close-season.

Other notable signings were Featherstone captain and loose-forward Tim Spears and Halifax prop Adam Robinson.

James Ford, in his third season as head coach, has also brought in players during the campaign – Halifax stand-off Connor Robinson and Rochdale prop Samir Tahraoui as well as on-loan Castleford threequarter Tuoyo Egodu.

Ford, a former Castleford and Widnes player, has had to deal with a number of injury concerns – on-field general Andy Ellis being one of them.