The Knights succumbed to defeat in the South Yorkshire derby at Clifton Lane after spending large parts of the match the most dominant side against Rotherham Titans.
Brett Davey’s men began the stronger in the second Yorkshire Regiment Trophy tie as the Doncaster forwards dominated the set-piece almost from the kick off. Unfortunately they couldn’t manage to turn pressure into points; coming close with an audacious drop goal effort from Jamie Lennard on the halfway line landing just short.
Titans were the first to strike though with a long range penalty from captain and kicking maestro Garry Law slotting his penalty for a 3-0 lead, totally against the run of play.
But Knights remained in the ascendancy, turning down goal shots for territory as Doncaster setup camp in Rotherham’s 22. The driving maul was causing the hosts problems, but errors at the final hurdle proved costly as Chris Hallam nearly made the home side pay, but for a knock-on.
A defining moment arrived shortly after as Donny turned the scrum and prop Brian McGovern powered over, clearly grounding the ball for an apparent opening try. But referee Steven Lee saw differently from an impossible angle and declined the Knights the try they so richly deserved.
The Irishman turned villain shortly after as the frustration obviously grew. McGovern seeing yellow for a silly kick out at an opposition player on the floor, and his ten minutes were to prove costly.
Rotherham hooker Ted Stagg squeezing over the whitewash before Law calmly added the extras for a 10-0 advantage. The arrival of Tomas Francis in a tactical switch for Tyson Lewis with the front row a man light boosted the forward pack, as the tight-head looked very impressive on his return.
But with Knights still attacking and pinning Rotherham on their own line, the pressure mounted as newly crowned player/head coach Lee Blackett cynically killed the ball by diving straight over the ruck. After several earlier infringements Blackett paid the price and evened the numbers with a yellow card of his own.
It didn’t take long for the Knights to break the shackles as Jethro Rawling barrelled over to bring the Knights back into the encounter. Lennard missed the conversion, but slotted a penalty shortly later to trail by two.
The first half closed with another Rotherham penalty from the boot of Law, but it was undoubted that Doncaster were the more forceful and penetrating side before the interval and were severely disappointed to go into the break trailing 13-8.
Knights again started the half the stronger, but poor decisions coupled with basic errors proved costly as they found themselves in trouble. They defended stoutly, but from a scrum five metres out Charlie Mulchrone pounced for his first Championship try and extend Rotherham’s lead as Doncaster bemoaned their mistakes.
But Doncaster weren’t about to roll over as almost straight from the restart the forwards applied heavy pressure and winger Lewis popped up at the base to snipe over and keep Donny in the match. Lennard converted from out wide.
The match became fragmented as the Titans, buoyed by their ferocious home support, applied the greater pressure as the game swung towards the hosts.
Rotherham asserted their newly found dominance with a brace for winger Peter Homan. Firstly, benefiting from a well worked inside move and secondly collecting a simple touchdown over the whitewash following a hack forward from Sanderson as Knights spilt the ball in contact. Law has intersected the tries with another long range penalty before converting the latter score from the touchline.
Ill discipline was again proving costly for the Knights, but the pack continued to bulldoze their way through their opponents, the fighting spirit epitomised by captain Matt Challinor. And the Knights got their reward in the final ten minutes as the impressive Rawling collected his second try from a rolling maul in a fine display from the openside flanker.
Unfortunately it wasn’t enough as Rotherham had the final say when full back Fergus Mulchrone exploited the chaos in the Doncaster defence to score the Titans fourth try in the second period before the whistle blew at 38-20.
Rotherham Titans: F Mulchrone, Homan, Blackett (Gill 40), Nonu, Doneghan (Styles 79), Law, C Mulchrone (Williams 75), Kilbane (Gadd 45), Stagg, Denman (Davies 45), Freeman, Sanderson, Ellyatt (Dacres 79), Kirwan, Reider.
Pens: Law 12, 39, 69
Tries: Stagg 24, C Mulchrone 45, Homan 54, 71, F Mulchrone 79
Con: Law 25, 71
Doncaster Knights: Lennard, Flockhart, Mama, Tincknell (Simpson 72), Lewis, Luke, Hallam (Munro 72), Davies (Bergmanas 72), Buckley (Sowery 68), McGovern (Francis 56), Challinor ©, Parsons, Boyde (Hoy 56), Rawling, Planchant (Pailor 56).
Tries: Rawling 32, 75 Lewis 48
Pens: Lennard 36
Conv: Lennard 48
Referee: Steven Lee
Image Courtesy of Kate Fisher Photography