Doncaster Knights produced their best performance of the season as they secured a vital win against Yorkshire rivals Leeds Carnegie at Castle Park in the Yorkshire Regiment Trophy.
Knights stunned their opponents in the first half, 18 points from impressive fly-half Jamie Lennard, on his return to the starting line up, opened up a commanding half time lead against a shell shocked Carnegie.
Doncaster made the perfect start to the game, after only three minutes, Michael Keating finished a superb team effort to register the games first try. Good initial play by Will Hafu and Tom Davies set up the opening as last season’s top try scorer strolled in for the opener. Lennard added the easy conversion.
The Knights continued to press and after a period of time in the Leeds twenty-two, Doncaster were awarded the simplest of penalties, which Lennard kicked to extend the lead to 10-0.
Hafu continued to torture the Leeds defence and capitalised on an error to make a 40 yard break to hand the Knights vital field position deep in opposition territory.
The Knights deservedly extended the lead shortly after, a big hit by Chris Planchant forced a near certain turnover, only for the Leeds player to hold on at the ruck and giveaway another penalty chance. Lennard kicked his second successive and simple penalty goal to further increase the home advantage.
Leeds finally got on the scoreboard after 25 minutes, fly-half Rory Clegg kicking a penalty after Knights prop Davies had received a yellow card for an incident at the ruck. Brian McGovern entered the field, whist Davies spent ten minutes in the sin bin for an apparent cynical killing off the ball just inside his own half.
Despite the numerical disadvantage it was the Knights who continued to dominate and Lennard slotted over another easy penalty after the visitors had been penalised for not rolling away.
Knights nearly further extended the lead, after picking the ball up deep inside their own half, Hafu, Tyson Lewis and McGovern were all involved in a counter attack into the Leeds twenty-two, before Leeds hooker Philip Nilsen was yellow carded for an incident at the breakdown, stopping a near certain try.
Lennard turned down the kickable penalty and went for the lineout on the five metre mark. The lineout was lost but, with just two minutes left of the half, Lennard latched onto his own chip kick, to gather the ball and touchdown in the right corner. Lennard kept up his 100 percent kicking record with a brilliant touchline conversion to add to his fine solo try.
That was the last scoring action of the Knights best forty minutes of the season to date, as they dominated from start to finish for a half time lead of 23-3.
Leeds started the second half well, but Doncaster’s defence held firm as they disrupted two line-outs in succession in dangerous areas. They nearly scored their first try after 50 minutes, substitute Chris Walker breaking through before kicking to the corner, but fortunately for Knights the ball beat the man into touch.
Leeds did score a try soon after though, winger David Doherty breaking clear down the left wing and escaping the attention of attempted tacklers to touchdown for his eleventh try of the campaign. Clegg’s conversion hit the post and dropped over to cut the lead to 23-10.
Doncaster responded well and had a period of pressure near the Leeds line. A neat backs move nearly saw Lewis break through, but for good Leeds covering defence. Knights again turned down a kickable penalty, but a costly error gifted the ball back to the away side.
Knights’ defence was further tested by Leeds’ waves of attack, but it continued to withhold pressure and again forced a vital error with the men form West Yorkshire well placed in the twenty-two.
The visitors though continued to search for a try to get themselves back in the contest. Knights’ ill discipline then gave Leeds field position metres from the line, but Doncaster’s defending was again superb and they forced the turnover before clearing their lines.
On 75 minutes Leeds got the try they had been desperately searching for. After a number of scrums on the Knights line, the referee eventually awarded the visitors a penalty try after Donny had committed one too many offences. Clegg, on loan from Harlequins, kicked the goal to make the score 23-17.
Leeds tried desperately to find a late try, with little time left on the clock, put found the shackles to tough to breakdown as Clive Griffiths men hung on in defence. But Doncaster again gave away a penalty that enabled Leeds vital territory inside the Knights half. Leeds tried everything to unlock the home side’s defence, but their efforts were unstuck by a valiant Doncaster side determined to secure a vital win in the fight against relegation.
Doncaster were rewarded for all their hard work defensively and were awarded a penalty just five metres into the Leeds half, this time the accurate boot of Lennard was just off target. Leeds attempted a counter attack from the missed kick, but Knights forced the former Donny full-back Stephen McColl into touch to finish the game and secure a famous victory against their Yorkshire rivals.
The impressive victory now moves Clive Griffiths side to within one point of Jersey and was the Knights first league win of 2013.
Doncaster Knights: Braid, Keating, Simpson (Mama 25), Luke, Lewis, Lennard, Bedford, Davies (McGovern 68), Buckley (Bergmanas 73), Cronin, Challinor (c), Parsons (Smith 75), Kettle, Hafu, Planchant.
Tries: Keating 3, Lennard 38.
Conv: Lennard 3, 38.
Pens: Lennard 9, 20, 31.
Leeds Carnegie: McColl, Georgiou, Goss, Burden, Doherty, Clegg, Hampson (Frost 73), Harris (Imiolek 60), Nilsen (Graham 68), Tussac (Currie 56), Green (Smith 56), Myerscough, Baldwin (Walker 40), Rowan, Burrows.
Tries: Doherty 53, Penalty 77.
Conv: Clegg 53 ,77.
Pens: Clegg 25.
Referee: Ross Campbell
Match Sponsor: Reward Capital
Carlsberg Man of the Match: Will Hafu
Written by Richard Hossack