THE STAKES ARE HIGH
It’s back to business after a mid-season break – and there is everything to play for as Toronto Wolfpack start their Super 8s campaign.
Promotion is the aim for the League 1 leaders, who know that by retaining top spot, they will go up to the Championship automatically.
The clubs in second, third, fourth and fifth after the next seven fixtures go into a play-off, the winners of which will also be promoted.
Finishing top is a tough ask for York City Knights, who trail the Wolfpack by ten points after the first 15 matches.
But the play-offs are a real possibility for James Ford’s fourth-placed side, who know a win over Toronto would be a massive boost.
There’s plenty of excitement in the historic city, and the Knights are expecting their best crowd of the season for Sunday’s showdown.
York have won nine out of their last eleven league games, their only defeats coming against the Wolfpack, who won 64-22 in Canada at the start of the month, and second-placed Whitehaven.
The club and its fans have also had a big lift with the news that building work on a new stadium will begin in October
So coach Paul Rowley and the Toronto players know they will have to be bang on form if they are to make it 16 wins from 16.
Let the action begin!
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
Rugby League life has often been tough for York, whose future was under serious threat only 12 months ago and who were saved by a December takeover led by current chairman Jon Flatman.
It’s only 14 years since a relaunch as the City Knights after the original club, founded in 1868, was dissolved amid bankruptcy.
Rather than be a founder member of the Northern Union (later Rugby League) in 1895, the original club remained loyal to the Rugby Union until 1901.
Having played on a series of pitches, including York’s famous Knavesmire racecourse, the club 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 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 1 (now League 1) 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.
Bootham Crescent, close to the city centre and with a capacity of just over 8,000, dates back to 1932 but will be demolished to make way for housing after the Rugby League and soccer clubs move to their new stadium on the outskirts of the city.
No League 1 side has put more points past Toronto than York, so solid defence will be crucial for the Wolfpack.
Canadian fans will remember York winger David Foggin-Johnston, who scored a hat-trick of tries at the Lamport Stadium on July 1.
The English club have a big worry over skipper and stand-out second row Ed Smith, who has a knee injury.
But among four deadline-day loan signings was second row Zeus Silk, from Super League club Hull FC.
Coach James Ford has also brought in props Jordan Cox, from Sheffield Eagles, and Ross Osbourne, from Hull FC, and Australian back Jake Butler-Fleming from Hull Kingston Rovers.
The Wolfpack have three of the most prolific try scorers in League 1 in skipper Craig Hall (20), Liam Kay (18) and Jonny Pownall (17).