Clive Griffiths’ men suffered a disappointing defeat against local rivals Rotherham Titans at Castle Park in the Knights final involvement in the Yorkshire Regiment Trophy this season as the rain dampened Doncaster spirits.
Despite leading at half-time, a spell of three Rotherham tries in less than 10 second half minutes effectively sealed the win for our South Yorkshire neighbours, although a last minute try secured a losing bonus point for the Knights.
Whilst the home faithful were left to rue a second half that escaped their clutches, the off field support was overwhelming as the Club has raised a fantastic amount for Help for Heroes and The Yorkshire Regiment; more to come in the week.
The game started slowly, with lots of aimless kicking, as both teams tried to get accustomed to the poor weather conditions.
It was Doncaster who opened the scoring after just five minutes, kicking in the absence of Jamie Lennard, winger Dougie Flockhart, successfully kicked a penalty from 30 metres out.
Rotherham responded well to going behind and with the Titans well placed inside the Donny twenty-two, good defensive work by the Knights, forced the turnover before they were awarded a penalty to relieve the pressure.
On 20 minutes, Knights should have extended their lead further but Flockhart pushed a relatively easy penalty wide, after Rotherham were penalised for a high tackle on fly-half Connor Braid.
Rotherham continued to show ill discipline and were again penalised for an infringement at the ruck. This time Flockhart made up for his earlier miss, when he stepped up to kick the penalty, to extend Knights lead.
From the restart, Rotherham nearly scored the first try of the match when they charged down a Joe Bedord kick, but Tom Luke was first to the ball to knock the ball deliberately into touch in the dead goal area. The centre was subsequently yellow carded for the offence.
With a man advantage, the visitors finally got on the scoreboard with ten minutes left in the first half, through a penalty by captain Garry Law.
Knights showed real character when they were down to 14 men and thought they had scored the opening try of the match when Will Hafu looked like he was first to the ball over the line, after they had hacked through a kick following a wayward Titans pass. Referee Matthew Carley, consulted with his touch judge and decided the try hadn’t been scored and brought play back for the earlier knock on, much to the dismay of the Donny faithful.
It wasn’t long until Knights extended their lead further, the home side again forced the penalty inside the opposition half. Flockhart stepped up and added the three points from the left touchline over 35 metres out.
Rotherham hit back once more and reduced the lead to just three points, through a miss hit penalty from Law that just managed to sneak over the posts.
On the stroke of half-time, Knights were penalised for not releasing and Law’s penalty attempt from 30 metres out was caught up in the wind and dropped short of the posts. Donny cleared the ball into touch and the scrappy first half finished 9-6 to the Knights.
Doncaster made the perfect start to the second half and further extended their lead just three minutes in. Flockhart slotted over another penalty from just outside the twenty-two, after Rotherham had been offside at the maul.
Rotherham nearly responded with a try through former Knight Latu Makafi, who looked set to score in the corner, after receiving the ball from the lineout, only to be bundled into touch by a solid Will Sharp tackle.
Just before the hour mark, the visitors did score the first try of the match. A misplaced Knights kick, resulted in a fine counter attack from Titans from deep within their own half, with Michael Doneghan outpacing Sharp down the right wing to score a fine team try, to cut Doncaster’s lead to just one point.
Rotherham were now in the ascendancy and were soon over for their second try. Second row Daniel Sanderson made the initial break into the Doncaster twenty-two, shrugging off some weak Knights tackling, before offloading to Eamonn Sheridan who dived over to score. Law kicked the conversion which gave Rotherham the lead for the first time in the match, with the score at 12-18.
Titans continued to dominate and scored their third try, when the referee awarded a penalty try after Doncaster collapsed a rolling maul that looked set to get over the try line. Full-back Law sweetly struck the conversion to give Rotherham a 13 point lead, as Rotherham blitzed Doncaster with three tries in less than ten minutes.
Doncaster tried to fight back to find a converted try that would secure a losing bonus point. Their case was aided when Rotherham’s Ben Thomas was yellow carded, following a dangerous tackle at the lineout.
With the man advantage, Knights continued to search for the try and it nearly came when Andy Boyde charged down a kick, before kicking the ball on, only to be beating in a foot race by James McKinney who touched the ball down in his in goal area.
On the stroke of full time, Doncaster did manage to breach the Rotherham defence. Captain Matt Challinor broke through to score a fine try against his former club and Flockhart stepped up to kick the conversion that sealed Knights a bonus point and signalled the end of the game.
A disappointing result against fellow South Yorkshire opposition, but securing a late bonus point was vital in Knights battle against relegation which continues away at Bedford in two weeks time.
Doncaster Knights: Keating, Flockhart, Mama, Luke, Sharp, Braid, Bedford (Hallam 75), Davies (Brown 52), Buckley, Cronin (McGovern 69), Challinor (c), Parsons (Smith 58), Kettle, Hafu (Sowery 69), Planchant (Boyde 71)
Tries: Challinor 80
Conversions: Flockhart 80
Pens: Flockhart 5, 22, 34, 43
Yellow: Luke 27
Rotherham Titans: Law, Doneghan, Sheridan, Nonu, Wilson, McKinney, Mulchrone (Williams 69) Gadd, Stagg, Denman, Thomas, Sanderson, Makafi, Kirwin, Rieder (Pearce 60)
Tries: Doneghan 59, Sheridan 62, Penalty 68
Conversions: Law 59, 62, 68
Pens: Law 30, 36
Yellow: Thomas 72
Reward Capital Man of the Match: Rhys Buckley
Referee: Matthew Carley
Attendance: 1, 514
Written by Richard Hossack
Image courtesy of Kate Fisher Photography