Nottingham Rugby 24 Doncaster Knights 3
Knights slipped to a fourth straight league defeat at the hands of an impressive Nottingham side who, following today’s result, now sit in the league’s top four.
The Knights made the relatively short trip to Meadow Lane, hoping to end the year on a high with a victory over the fellow Northern Championship side but that was not to be the case as the impressive Green and Whites inflicted a 24-3 defeat on Clive Griffiths’ men.
There was one change to the Knights side as announced in the week, as dual-registered young Leicester Tiger Rhys Williams came on to the left wing in place of Tyson Lewis.
The home side started like they meant business. After the Knights collected possession at kick off, fly half Piers Francis tried an audacious pass out of his own 22 metre. The ball was just a little too far in front of the oncoming Flockhart to collect and bounced into touch. This was the last spell of possession the Knights would have for a significant period of time.
Nottingham committed whole-heartedly to their early attacks and whilst the Knights managed to hold off the initial onslaught, they fell foul of the referees whistle time and time again.
Fly half Dan Mugford turned down close range shots at goal, going to the corner as the Green and Whites went after a maximum return of points. The Knights defence would not let them through and when the game’s first scrum was awarded Donny got some respite. After four reset attempts a free kick was given the Knights way and Francis cleared his side’s lines.
The clearance only worked to postpone the home attacks and they soon came back. The offensive efforts were boosted by the Knights continued infringements, after just ten minutes of action the penalty count read four to nil, and Nottinghham would soon capitalized on this.
Spinning the ball from touchline to touchline with good support, Notts stretched the Knights defences and when the ball was once again spun to the left hand side winger Ryan Hough showed his pace to get over in the corner.
Donny almost made an immediate response, Skipper Michael Hills was able to collect from the restart and headed towards goal. The Knights first goal scoring chance came shortly after when Notts were pinged for not releasing. Francis went to the corner but unfortunately the Knights gave away a penalty of their own in the next phase of play.
The Knights started to gain a bit of a foothold in the game as the half progressed but still looked the more vulnerable of the two sides. They did manage to create a threatening chance when they built from a scrum penalty and spun together nice phases in Nottingham’s 22m. The attack came to an end when the ball was knocked forward but Donny had penalty advantage and Flockhart looked to go at posts. Against howling wind the Scotsman produced a rare miss.
With the half approaching the Knights squad and coaches would probably have been relieved to go into the break trailing by just seven points. Unfortunately the home side had other ideas and broke again before the interval, a fracas at a break down saw both Richard List and Dan Montagu given a ten minute breather and a penalty that was originally awarded to the Knights was reversed.
Notts built from the penalty and attacked sharply when Billy Robinson entered the line at pace. The full back was able to skip out of one tackle and then put his foot down to race home. Mugford was unable to add the conversion but nonetheless the hosts finished the half twelve-points to the good.
Doncaster needed a much-improved showing in the second forty if they were going to take anything from the clash and the early signs were positive after the break. Paul Jarvis nicely colected an inside ball from Piers Francis and broke up field. He made his way into the Nottingham 22m before winger Liam O’Neill was able to haul the full back in to touch.
The Knights got off the mark soon after when the packs locked horns at scrum time, both front rows went to ground and the advantage was given to Donny. Flockhart elected to go at goal and this time made no mistake, 12-3.
Unfortunately this was about as good as it got for the Knights and Nottingham produced in swift reaction. Good pressure from the restart meant Francis was forced into a hurried clearance kick from his own goal area. The fly half could only clear as far as the 22m and from there the hosts produced a fine driving maul which ended with home skipper Brent Wilson touching down.
Trailing by two converted scores Griff made a raft of substitutions introducing; Tiziano Pasquali, Brad Field, Viliami Veikoso, Ollie Bryant and Latu Makaafi either side of the hour mark. Unfortunately, unlike in Penzance a fortnight ago, the Knights were unable to produce an unlikely comeback and it was the hosts who really kicked on.
The bonus point came for Nottingham shortly after. A well-supported break up field, littered with offloads, was eventually finished by flanker Rupert Cooper. Mugford produced a fine touchline conversion to make the score line 24-3.
Nottingham did not add to the score as the game entered final stages but defended superbly to ensure a comfortable victory.
In the final ten minutes of the game the Knights increased their intensity, looking to end on a high. They worked their way deep in to the home 22m and this time it was Nottingham’s turn to fall foul of the ref’s whistle. Repeated penalties resulted in replacement back row Tom Calladine being sin binned with minutes left to play. Doncaster continued to press but the hosts would not yield and when the ball was turned over with time up, Will Maisey kicked it dead to close proceedings.
Not a great day at the office for the Knights players and coaches, who now have a two-week turn around before welcoming Rotherham Titans and the Sky Sports to Castle Park cameras on January 4th.
On a brighter note to all Knights fans who have followed the squad this season, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We look forward to seeing you soon in 2015!
Nottingham Rugby XV
15) Billy Robinson 14) Ryan Hough (Alex Smit 58’) ?13) Ed Styles? 12) Javiah Pohe ?11) Liam O’Neill? 10) Dan Mugford (Will Maisey 79’)? 9) Sean Romans 1) George Porter (Campese Ma’afu 65’) 2) Shaun Malton (Jon Vickers 65’) ?3) Conor Carey (Michael Holford 26’)? 4) Toby Freeman (Tom Price 64’) ?5) Dan Montagu 6) Rupert Cooper (Tom Calladine 65’)? 7) Brent Wilson (c)? 8) Paul Grant
Replacements; 16) Campese Ma’afu?17) Michael Holford 18) Jon Vickers 19) Tom Price? 20) Tom Calladine? 21) Alex Smit? 22) Will Maisey
Tries; Ryan Hough 14, Billy Robinson 40’, Brent Wilson 49’, Rupert Cooper 56’
Conv; Dan Mugford 14, 56’
Sin Bin: Dan Montagu & Tom Calladine
15 Paul Jarvis, 14 Dougie Flockhart, 13 Andy Bulumakau, 12 Bevon Armitage (Ollie Bryant 61’), 11 Rhys Williams, 10 Piers Francis (Paul Roberts 70’), 9 Bruno Bravo (Brad Field 55’), 1 Richard List (Riccardo Brugnara 40’), 2 Ben Hunter (Villiame Veikoso 61’), 3 Ross Davies (Tiziano Pasquali 55’), 4 Matt Challinor, 5 Jon Phelan, 6 Phil Eggleshaw (Latu Makaafi 61’), 7 Michael Hills ©, 8 Alex shaw.
Replacements; 16 Riccardo Brugnara, 17 Villiame Veikoso, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Latu Makaafi, 20 Paul Roberts, 21 Ollie Bryant, 22 Brad Field.
Pens; Dougie Flockhart 45’
Sin Bin; Richart List