A tight encounter at the Alpas Arena ended with Doncaster taking four points after they shrugged off a strong Hartpury start to hit back with three tries before half time.
Hartpury launched a spirited reply in the second half, but lacked the composure to finish any of a number of promising attacks. A late James Williams penalty at least retrieved a bonus point.
Doncaster’s Steve Boden was happy with the result, although not every aspect of the performance.
“We played well in patches but at other times we made far too many basic errors. Our defence was outstanding, but we had to rely on it too much.”
“We’ll take the four points and re-group before another tough challenge next week.”
Doncaster were their own worst enemy in the opening quarter, as a string of penalties gave Hartpury field position on which they were able to capitalise. It was a perfect start for the home team as the first try came in the 5th minute, when the prolific Harry Short burst out of a lineout drive to score comfortably (pictured).
Short remains among the leading try-scorers in the division and his all-round performances have been impressive for a player who graduated from university rugby at the end of last season.
Hartpury added a second minutes later, when another lineout drive went all the way for co-skipper Will Crane to finish.
The home side looked to be cruising at that stage and it was into the second quarter before Doncaster established themselves in the match. It will be disappointing for the Hartpury coaching staff to see the ease with which they accomplished this.
Joe Margetts, a former Hartpury student, opened their account after Hartpury had failed to deal with a Jack Spittle chip ahead.
Spittle himself scored in the 30th minute when some good work by the Doncaster backs, with Billy McBryde prominent, left him with a simple finish.
As they had in the previous week, Hartpury conceded another try on the stroke of half-time when Josh Peters finished a rumble by the Doncaster forwards to give his side a 17-12 advantage.
To their credit, Hartpury re-grouped at the break and came out firing the second half, a scrum creaking scrum being largely off-set by an occasionally mis-firing Knights lineout.
The game improved a spectacle as both teams looked to find space in the wider areas, although an exchange of penalties between Sam Olver and Williams was the only scoring in the second half.
Hartpury had the better of the final quarter and put together some good moves, but the Knights held firm as the Red & Blacks failed to find any sort of finishing touch. When Hartpury were penalised four minutes from the end, the visitors and were able to control possession from then on and run down the clock for the win.
“It was an improvement on the last couple of games,” said Hartpury’s John Barnes, “and I was pleased that we stayed in it and were looking for the win at the end.”
Unfortunately, we had a poor 15 minutes before half time and that has cost us.”