Knights 48-38 Hartpury.
Doncaster Knights made it four wins on the trot with a bonus point victory over Hartpury RFC in what was a thrilling encounter at Castle Park.
The Knights pulled clear of a lively Hartpury side to move to third in the Championship table with Yorkshire Carnegie facing Richmond tomorrow.
Some drizzly morning rain threatened to hamper conditions but as the South Yorkshire sun began to shine both teams took advantage to produce a fourteen try belter with the Knights coming out on top by ten points.Both sides attacked the game with gusto and the tone was set with less that two minutes played as Hartpury scored before many fans had taken their seats.
Matt Challinor was judged to have stepped out of play as he collected the kick off and from there the visiting pack rumbled well. As they breached the Knights 22m full back Mike Wilcox hit a smart line to dissect Donny defence and score under the posts. Jacob Perry added the extras, 0-7.
The Knights response came before Hartpury could draw breath, winning a penalty just a couple of phases after the restart. Charlie Foley struck the kick deep into the 22m and Josh Tyrell took possession at the top of the line out. The back-rower handed on to Joe Sproston as the prop looped around the blindside and passed to Ben Hunter who did well to finish under duress.
Foley was unable to add the extras but the Knights took the lead moments later.
More good line out play created a platform for the backs to cut loose. Foley took possession in good field position to hit Tyson Lewis on an inside line and the winger showed some smart footwork before before handing onto Tyrell who crossed for his first Knights try, goaled by Foley.
In keeping with the topsy-turvy start to the game, having just scored two fine tries, the Knights completely switched off to concede a rather sloppy seven-pointer.
Paul Jarvis carried from a kick return but after a nice initial break spilt possession on the floor. Scrum half Harry Cochrane picked up and raced away untouched with the Knights defence unable to lay a glove. Perry kicked the extras wide meaning with just over quarter of an hour gone the score was 12-12.
Hartpury then re-took the lead with an inventive bit of vision from stand off Perry.
After a penalty moved the visitors into the Knights 22m, the outside half took possession post line out and dinked a lovely chip over the Donny line where centre Luke Eves rose the highest to collect and score.
The Knights rallied before the break and scored two tries in the final five minutes of the half to secure a try bonus point and lead at the change of ends.
The first came from another powerful set piece platform following which Foley lead the charge, carrying into contact and getting an offload away which release Andy Bulumakau to score.
The Donny backs take all the credit for the second score as the speedsters let rip from their own territory to break down field through Jarvis, Bulumakau and Wilson with the latter being pulled down within touching distance of the try line. Play was quickly moved in field where Michael Hills collected to exploit a broken defensive line and score. Foley added the extras making the half time score 24-17.
Many might have expected the scoring to be stemmed in the second half following some choice words from both set of coaches but two further tries in the first ten minutes after the restart quickly put paid to that notion.
A well formed driving line out saw Hunter rumble over for his second try of the afternoon on 45 minutes with Foley converting but with the scoreboard barely updated Hartpury crossed themselves. The restart was taken smartly by a red shirt on the right flank and possession move to winger Steven Leonard who raced away to make the score 31-24.
At this point the game was in the balance but the Knights, despite Tom Hicks receiving a yellow card, didn’t ever really look like losing and in the final quarter adopting a “we’ll just score more than you” approach confirmed the win.
From a close range scrum Jason Hill gathered and carried powerfully towards the Hartpury line. The flanker couldn’t quite make it over but play was smartly moved wide to skipper Hills who collected and released a well-timed pass for Tyson Lewis to take and at full tilt would not be stopped.
Hartpury hit back after a sustained period of pressure and a series of deep driving lineouts, eventually the forwards got a rumble on with Darren Dawidiuk dropping over the line and Perry slotting the extras, 36-31.
The result was secured with just under ten minutes to play as the Knights produced a double whammy of fire tries through Adam Batt and Tom James, the latter one to look out for on the highlights. Declan Cusack was forced from the field with an injury meaning James took up kicking duties to convert his own score and make it 46-31 with five minutes remaining.
Credit must go to the visitors who battled until the last and got some consolation in the dying seconds as centre Tom Seabrook raced away down the left hand side after a series a quick, well-moved phase play.
Perry’s conversion made the final score 48-38 and whilst Clive and his coaching team will no doubt want to address a couple of defensive errors, the Knights are beginning to build some real momentum and can travel to Penzance in a fortnight full of confidence.
Doncaster Knights; 15. Paul Jarvis, 14. Curtis Wilson, 13. Andy Bulumakau, 12. Mat Clark, 11. Tyson Lewis, 10. Charlie Foley (Declan Cusack 62’), 9. Michael Heaney (Tom James 70’), 1. Richard List (Jack Bergmanas 67’), 2. Ben Hunter (David Nelson 55’), 3. Joe Sproston (Ian Williams 70’), 4. Matt Challinor (Adam Batt 65’), 5. Tom Hicks, 6. Jack Ram (Jason Hill 56’), 7. Michael Hills ©, 8. Josh Tyrell
Replacements; 16. Jack Bergmanas, 17. David Nelson, 18. Ian Williams, 19. Adam Batt, 20. Jason Hill, 21. Tom James, 22. Declan Cusack
Tries; Hunter 6’ 46’, Tyrell 13’, Bulumakau 32’, Hills 37’, Lewis 62’, Batt 74’, James 77,
Conv; Foley 14’, 37’, 46’, James 77’
Hartpury RFC; 15. Mike Wilcox, 14. George Boulton (Steve Leonard 40’), 13. Tom Seabrook, 12. Luke Eves (Charlie Chapman 62’), 11. George Perkins, 10. Jacob Perry, 9. Harry Cochrane (Sam Bedlow 62’), 1. Dan Murphy (c) (Mike Flook 68’), 2. Will Tanner (Darren Dawidiuk 37’), 3. Rupert Harden (Mike Daniels 63’), 4. BJ Edwards (Ben Chan 46’), 5. Joe Quinn, 6. Rob Langley, 7. Will Safe, 8. Darrel Dyer
Replacements; 16. Darren Dawidiuk, 17. Mike Flook, 18. Mike Daniels, 19. Ben Chan, 20. Charlie Chapman, 21. Sam Bedlow, 22. Steve Leonard.
Tries; Wilcox 1’, Cochrane 17’, Eves 29’, Leonard 48’, Dawiduik 66’, Seabrook 80’
Conv; Perry 2’, 48, 66’, 80’
Referee: Steve Lee
Match report – Michael Casey
Picture – R. Swetton