YORK CITY KNIGHTS gave a spirited performance, matching big-spending Toronto Wolfpack for large parts of their Championship opener, before eventually falling short this afternoon.
James Ford’s part-time side, promoted as League 1 champions, were facing opponents who only missed out on Super League after losing the Million Pound Game to London Broncos in October.
However, York only trailed 4-0 until Matty Russell, the former Warrington Wolves winger, calmed nerves for Toronto with his 69th minute try.
Ex-Widnes Vikings star Joe Mellor then made sure in the closing moments, Gareth O'Brien converting, as the Canadian visitors - who roughly spend ten times more than York on wages - dominated the closing stages.
Still, City Knights came out with plenty of credit.
It was the first competitive game in charge of Toronto for Brian McDermott, the Grand Final-winning coach sacked by Leeds Rhinos last July, and he will immediately know getting out of this division will not be simple.
York - who famously were the only team to beat Toronto in their debut year of 2017 - were competitive from the first hooter and, with prop Graeme Horne leading the way with a terrific first stint, they did not look out of place.
Ford’s side defended with real zeal, saw Connor Robinson’s long kicking game send Toronto back and were generally well-organised.
Granted, the visitors helped them with some early rustiness - Josh McCrone passed into touch before Andrew Dixon wasted another promising chance with a dropped ball.
Knights stand-off Ben Cockayne, in particular, relished the occasion, the ex-Hull KR star putting in some fierce hits including one that rocked full-back Gareth O’Brien.
Prop Ronan Dixon came off the bench to add real impetus in their defensive effort, too, but York did not cause any real issues for Toronto on their own line.
Robinson’s short kicking game lacked a sting and instead - after Adam Sidlow was held up over York’s goalline - it was McDermott’s side who made the first breakthrough with Gary Wheeler’s 24th minute try following a fine Chase Stanley flick pass.
Still, the hosts’ response was positive; Dixon led a three-man tackle that drove former Bradford Bulls forward Olbison back 10m.
Hooker Kris Brining pepped them up further when he entered the fray and they started to force errors from the Canadian side.
Toronto did produce one stunning handling move in the final moments of the half, with ex-St Helens star Jon Wilkin twice involved.
However, Liam Salter, Matty Marsh and Ash Robson somehow prevented Ricky Leutele - an NRL Grand Final winner with Cronulla Sharks - from grounding with a remarkable tackle.
In the second period, Toronto made a raft of early handling errors in their own half, being penalised for dissent after one, but, frustratingly, once more York failed to capitalise.
They remained full of spirit and vigour, though, and showed little sign of tiring against their full-time opponents.
Indeed, Jack Treanby nearly charged over from Horne’s fine inside pass but he was dragged down short and his side could not finish.
That allowed Russell the chance to make sure but - before and after - he was also bundled into touch twice as York’s indefatigable spirit continued.
York City Knights: Marsh; Robson, Bass, Hey, Whiteley; Cockayne, Robinson; Horne, Jubb, Teanby, Jordan-Roberts, Salter, Petersen. Substitutes: Brining, Blagborough, Dixon, Porter.
Toronto Wolfpack: O’Brien; Wheeler, Stanley, Leutele, Russell; Mellor, McCrone; Sims, Ackers, Olbison, Dixon, Thompson, Wilkin. Substitutes: Wallace, Sidlow, Lussick, Springer.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven)