Newport Gwent Dragons Premiership Select XV 17 v Doncaster Knights Match 49
Having ground out an attritional 21-16 victory at Castle Park the weekend previous the Knights travelled to the Dragons Centre for Sporting Excellence, Ystrad Mynach, for the rematch. The win from round three saw the Knights usurp the Dragons at the top of Pool five so the day’s result would be crucial in determining who would progress to the knock out stages; even with two more pool fixtures remaining in the New Year.
The game was originally scheduled to be played at Bedwas RFC but due to the adverse recent weather conditions in the area the fixture was moved to Ystrad Mynach and played on an all-weather surface. On the plastic surface the Knights started brightly and attacked having gained possession from the kick off however some indiscipline brought the move to an end and shortly after the hosts opened the scoring with a long range penalty from the boot of Angus O’Brien.
The penalty was the first and only score the Dragons would register in the first half as the hosts were subject to a Donny onslaught in what was a fine opening forty from the Knights. Bevon Armitage and Andy Bulumakau seemed to enjoy playing alongside one another in midfield and made several impressive contributions in both attack and defence with Armitage deserving plenty of credit for the game’s opening score. After Jon Phelan stole a Dragons lineout in the home 22m the centre produced a scything carry to cut through the Welsh defences before releasing a well-timed pass for winger Mat Clark to collect and gallop home, Cusack added a the extra two with smart conversion.
The Knights soon doubled their advantage after the hosts pulled down Jon Phelan at a line out on half way, Dec Cusack stuck the penalty deep into the home 22m from which the Knights produced a text book attacking maul. Latu Makaafi moved himself into position and took control of possession, as the forwards edged closer to the line the flanker pounced to claim his first of two tries; Cusack was on the money once again with the extra points.
As the half progressed the Knights continued to look bright and, despite the rain, were happy to play with width and pace, continuing to create opportunities with wingers Clark and Will Hurrell making a menace of themselves out wide. It was Clark who registered the Knights third, just after the half hour mark from another well-formed line out. With possession secured on the floor the powerful runner cut off his wing and hit a line on the blind side before wriggling through a couple of challenges and dotting down. Cusack made it three from three with a well-executed conversion from the touch line, home flanker James Benjamin was also yellow carded after the score for collapsing the driving maul.
With ten minutes left to play in the half the Knights really hit top gear and almost scored the bonus point try moments later as Andy Bulumakau demonstrated his elusive evasion skills to break down the wing and release Sam Edgerley. The full back put his foot down and raced over but unfortunately play was brought back for crossing. The fourth try was secured before the interval though and it was that man Makaafi once again. Following a period of nice attacking play the flanker collected to power over from five metres for his 16th try of the season. Cusack’s conversion made it 3-28 as the sides headed in for the break.
The Knights held a convincing lead at half time but ended up having to dig in defensively to hold on following a much improved second half display from the Dragons and that threatened to be the case again. A revitalized looking home side emerged for the start of the second half and within five minutes of the resumption had added to their total. Having broken down field it looked as if the danger had passed as they coughed up possession close to the Knights line but a Donny knock on, on the floor gave the hosts a scrum 5m out. Over eagerness in the Knights pack meant the Dragons had a free kick which Luc jones tapped quickly and after couple of pick and go carries flanker James Benjamin barged his way over the line. O’Brien added the conversion but the Knights had no intention of letting Newport back into the game. A nice starter move from a midfield line out put Clark through a gap, the winger was brought down but in the next play possession was put wide and Will Hurrell very nearly scored in the corner. Penalty advantage was awarded Doncaster’s way and Cusack sent a well-weighted chip towards Clark who rose well but received a midair challenge George Gasson who was yellow carded for the offense. The Knights went to the corner with the subsequent penalty and, after some suspect maul tactics from the home pack, referee Sean Gallagher awarded a penalty try.
The Knights next score was a joy to watch. With play broken up in midfield Cusack looked to move the ball wide and found Bevon Armitage who continued the move forward before handing on to Sam Edgerley. The full back produced an outrageous hand off to floor Aaron Warren pass back to Bevon Armitage who put Andy Bulumakau through a gap to score. Cusack’s conversion made the score 42-10 in the Knights favour and the Knights coaching staff rang the changes for the final quarter.
Despite the score line Newport continued to attack and got a reward on 65 minutes when Benjamin touched down for his second score of the game. Having won a scrum penalty the Dragons began to build phase play in the Knights 22m and the openside hit a line at pace to carry himself over the line under challenge from a couple of Donny tacklers.
With the full time whistle looming the Knights produced one final scoring attack. Spotting a gap in the back field scrum half Michael Heaney produced a perfectly-weighted chip ahead that replacement winger Tyson Lewis gladly chased down, collected and scored from. On his first competitive game in a Knights shirt Simon Humberstone closed the fixture with a lovely conversion from the touch line to take the full time score to 49-17.
A huge thanks must go to the tens of fans that made the trip down to South Wales and behalf of all at the Knights, Merry Christmas – see you on Boxing Day!
Dragons XV; 15) Geraint Rhys Jones, 14) Aaron Warren (Connor Edwards 64’), 13) Aled Brew, 12) Barney Nightingale (Arwel Robson 60’), 11) George Gasson, 10) Angus O’Brien, 9) Luc Jones (Owen Davies 67 ’), 1) Luke Garrett (Richard Cornock 73’), 2) Hugh Gustafson © (Ellis Shipp 73’), 3) Leon Brown (Alex Jeffries 53’), 4) Scott Andrews, 5) Adam Brown (Ashley Sweet 70’) 6) Josh Skinner, 7) James Benjamin, 8)Harrison Keddie.
Replacements: 16) Ellis Shipp, 17) Richard Cornock, 18) Alex Jeffries, 19) Ashley Sweet, 20) Owen Davies, 21) Arwel Robson, 22) Connor Edwards.
Tries; Benjamin 44’, 65’
Con; O’Brien 44’, 65’
Pens; O’Brien 8’
Sin bin; Benjamin 32’, Gasson 52’
Knights XV; 15) Sam Edgerley, 14) Mat Clark, 13) Andy Bulumakau, 12) Bevon Armitage, 11) Will Hurrell (Tyson Lewis 65’’), 10) Dec Cusack (Simon Humberstone 65’), 9) Michael Heaney, 1) Rich List (Joe Sproston 55’), 2) Ted Stagg, 3) Colin Quigley (WillGriff 55’), 4) Tyler Hotson, 5) Jon Phelan, 6) Latu Makaafi, 7) Michael Hills (C), 8) Ollie Stedman (Alex Shaw 27’) (Matt Challinor 65’)
Replacements; 16) Ben Hunter, 17) Joe Sproston, 18) WillGriff John, 19) Matt Challinor, 20) Alex Shaw, 21) Simon Humberstone, 22) Tyson Lewis.
Tries; Clark 10’ & 28’, Makaafi 16’, 36’ Penalty 50’, Bulumakau 55’, Lewis 78’
Con; Cusack 10’, 16’, 28’, 36’, 50’ & 56’, Humberstone 79’