Doncaster staged a spirited second half fight back against Plymouth Albion but finished with another disappointing defeat to bow out of the Championship.
Clive Griffiths’ Knights fought for the full eighty minutes at Castle Park in the final game of the season as they tried to give the Castle Park crowd something to cheer about on what has been a disappointing season for the club.
Doncaster were led out on the pitch ahead of the game by scrum half Chris Hallam who was making his 100th appearance for the club.
In head coach Nat Saumi last game in charge, it was Plymouth who started the game well and took the lead after only eight minutes. Tyson Lewis had initially denied his former team scoring after a fine last gasp tackle to hold up Lloyd Fairbrother over the line.
From the resulting scrum the referee decided that the Knights had illegally collapsed it and awarded Plymouth the penalty try. Paul Roberts kicked the easiest of conversions.
Plymouth extended their lead when prop Luke Cowan-Dickie touched down after a strong rolling maul gained momentum and breached the Donny try line. Roberts kicked his second conversion to give the visitors a 14-0 lead midway through the half.
It wasn’t long until Plymouth further extended their lead when captain Ruairi Cushion dived over from the ruck. This time Roberts wasn’t on target with his kicking but Plymouth had stormed into a 19-0 lead after just 30 minutes.
Doncaster responded well with a sustained period of pressure in the Plymouth half. Tom Davies breached the defence with a strong ball carry, before Will Hafu’s audacious chip over was recovered well by Plymouth full back Lewis Messer just before Hafu got to the bouncing ball.
Knights did get on the scoreboard just before the interval. After ill discipline by the visitors gave Donny valuable field position deep inside the 22, Chris Hallam was at the back of a rolling maul to touchdown to mark his appearance milestone with a well deserved try.
This was the last action of a disappointing first forty for the Knights as they trailed 5-19 at the break.
Doncaster’s course was boosted at the start of the second half by the yellow card shown to Plymouth’s Brett Beukeboom.
The home side capitalised on their numerical advantage when long serving number 8 Chris Planchant burrowed his way over the line for the try. The referee consulted with his touch judge who had adjudged Planchant to have scored the try. Dougie Flockhart kicked a successful touchline conversion to bring Donny back into the game.
Knights continued the press and good play by Hallam, Hafu and home debutant Joseva Nayacavou moved Doncaster deep within the Plymouth half.
Flockhart kicked a penalty to cut the deficit to just four points after Plymouth were penalised for not rolling away at the ruck.
It was all Doncaster and they nearly scored again following a wonderful 50 metre break by Canadian international Connor Braid, whose attempted offload didn’t go to hand when the Knights were well placed.
Plymouth regained control of the match just after the hour mark when they scored their fourth try of the match. They were camped in the Donny 22 for a long period but failed to breach some stubborn home defence, until substitute scrum half Paul Rowley jinked his way through a number of tackler to score underneath the posts, which Powell converted.
Donny fought to the very end trying to get something out of the game and they did give the loyal supporters something to cheer about in the closing minutes.
Substitute Adam Kettle showed some neat footwork to take on a number of players before touching the ball down in the left corner for a fantastic solo try. Once again the referee consulted with his touch judge who again decided the try was scored. Flockhart kicked a fine touchline conversion to bring Donny to within one score of the away side.
Donny tried to attack from deep to score a late try to snatch the win but the ball was lost and the game was over. It was another disappointing defeat by Donny who showed great character to bring themselves back into the game after they were seemingly out of it after 30 minutes of the game.
Knights must now look forward to playing in National League One next season as Griffiths’ side will be hoping to bounce back at the first time of asking and get Doncaster back where they belong in the Championship.
Doncaster Knights: Keating, Flockhart, Mama, Luke (Simpson 54), Lewis, Braid, Hallam (Bedford 60), Davies (Brown 57), Bergmanas, Francis (Hooper 34), Challinor, Parsons (Boyde 66), Nayacavou (Kettle 53), Hafu (Sowery 60), Planchant
Tries: Hallam 38, Planchant 44, Kettle 77
Conv: Flockhart 44, 77
Pens: Flockhart 52
Plymouth Albion: Messer (Cusack 53), Warner, Howley-Berridge, Armitage, Bowen, Roberts, Cushion (Rowley 55), L Cowan-Dickie, T Cowan-Dickie (Salter 54), Fairbrother (Morton 74), Beukeboom, Ashcroft-Leigh, Tovey (Phillips 53), Sprangle (Hocking 53), Stupple (Matavesi 74)
Tries: Penalty 8, L Cowan-Dickie 25, Cushion 30, Rowley 68
Conv: Roberts 8, 25, 68
Yellow: Beukeboom 42
Referee: Simon Harding
Written by Richard Hossack
Image courtesy of shaunflanneryphotography.com