October 2004 saw the Knights reach the National League Two Play-Offs and, fresh from a 37-20 defeat to a Halifax team fighting for their second-tier survival, they were to play host to Workington Town. The prize at stake? A place at the National League’s Grand Finals Day at Widnes’ Halton Stadium. Coming into the match, the Cumbrian visitors were viewed by many as favourites; a strong team across the board and in-form ahead of the Huntington Stadium encounter, a close game was expected.
But, in devastating fashion, the Knights blew Workington away, romping to a 70-10 victory – a then-record for the team. Another record broken that day saw homegrown Mark Cain cross for five tries and here he reflects back on that match and moment in his career…
The encounter at Halifax the previous weekend saw Cain line-up at full-back for the Knights but, displaying his versatility, came off the bench against Workington – and he wasn’t initially set to be involved, only coming in when regular interchange hooker Jimmy Elston was ruled out. “I remember coming off the bench after about twenty minutes,” Cain recalls. “I scored with my first touch of the ball, taking a pass from Scott Rhodes and stepping through some lazy defenders around the play the ball to score.”
Indeed, the performance was impressive – overcoming a high-quality Workington team. “It was a great performance from the lads as they were a massive side as I recall,” he explained. Such has been the amount of time since the match, Cain admits that his recollection of the day isn’t perfect but he does recall the quality of a certain former Great Britain international as how vital he was to the team that day. “In the second half, Lee Jackson was great. He must have set up at least three tries close to the line through moves we had practised all year,” he remarked.
Indeed, Pete Martini’s match report from the match outlined that, in the second half in particular, noted how everything the team tried came off and in doing so encapsulated a perfect team performance. Indeed, such was how stuff was clicking for the Knights on that Autumn afternoon, Cain recalls how the ball seemed to bounce sometimes in the Knights favour at the right moments. “I remember the fifth try I scored; it was a kick through that their full-back thought was going to roll dead but I managed to get there and ground it to his surprise,” Cain explained.
This match saw Cain record the most tries any Knights player had scored in any match up to that point and agreed that it had to be one of his best moments representing York.
“This match was one of my fondest memories for obvious reasons. I got player of the week in League Express which was nice as well.” Cain remembers before reminiscing about another of his memorable matches, this time for the Wasps. “When we were York Wasps and we were playing Lancashire Lynx in a game we needed to win to finish top of the league and I remember they scored in the last minute of the match to make it 20-20 and we knew we had literally one last chance score,” he recalls. “We made our way upfield and the ball was thrown out in a set up for a shot at a drop goal and somehow through about four lads trying to charge the kick down it went straight through the sticks and we won that game 21-20. We were shattered but ecstatic as well!”
Back in 2004, and in the run to ultimate defeat in the promotion final, the Knights were under the coaching stewardship of now-Leeds Rhinos head coach Richard Agar, a man Cain played with earlier in his career. “I played with Rich at Dewsbury Rams and he was a great reader of a game and a very intelligent footballer,” Cain notes. “He played the game plan perfectly and was a great leader on and off the pitch so his transition into coaching was a seamless one. He was and still is one of the best coaches I have played under.”
By Joe Smith