Knights 3-35 London Irish
If the Knights are to make it to the Greene King IPA Championship final for a second season they will need to turn a 32-point deficit as they were outscored by six tries to nil by an impressive London Irish outfit.
It was a dominant performance by Irish who, in all honesty, never looked like faltering in their first appearance in the Greene King IPA Championship play-offs. Imperious defence frustrated the Knights who enjoyed more than their fair share of possession but struggled to make inroads against a seemingly impenetrable wall of green.
It was a frantic start to proceedings, the Knights were quick out of the blocks using the blustery conditions to their advantage as Simon Humberstone penned Irish back in their own half with several fantastic high-balls.
It was a Humberstone kick that created the first chance of the game, the fly-half bombed one spiralling high up into the air allowing the wind to put doubt in the visitors back three. Tommy Bell misjudged the bounce allowing Dougie Flockhart to collect deep in the goal area. At first it looked like an incredible finish by the winger but the TMO decision ruled possession to have gone dead.
London Irish responded to this threat almost instantly. Having been penned in their half for the opening fifteen minutes, the visitors made their way up field and earned themselves a line out on the Donny 5m.
The power and organisation of the Irish pack was evident from minute one to eighty and with the subsequent driving-maul drove over with David Paice getting the first of a brace of tries on the day. Bell was unable to deal with the blustery conditions as the conversion went wide.
With Irish having demonstrated their prowess at the set piece the Donny pack came to the fore with a show of strength shortly after. A solid scrum saw the visitors front row crumble allowing Dougie Flockhart to kick at goal, unfortunately the conditions proved too difficult for the winger as his three-point attempt sailed wide.
Doncaster were once again made to rue their missed chances as Irish added another try just moments later, a powerful run from Fergus Mulchrone in midfield sucked the Knights defence in-field which Irish exploited exquisitely. Ofisa Treviranus ran a powerful line to give Aseli Tikoirotuma space outside him, the big number eight offloaded in contact and Tikoirotuma finished in the corner. Bell, once again, off the mark with the conversion – 0-10.
The Knights persistence in attack must was to their credit but, as they found a fortnight ago, the speed in which Irish attacked the line was frightful and meant that tens of attacking phases bore little fruit.
A scrum penalty did finally offer Donny another chance for points and, aided by an extra ten yards for dissent, Flockhart got the Knights off the mark which meant they went into the break trailing by just one converted score.
A fortnight ago London Irish won the day with two quick-fire tries shortly after the interval and it was a similar tale today.
A deft short pass by fly half James Marshall sent Alex Lewington clean through, the winger racing in under the sticks to kick-off a dominant forty minutes from the visitors. Bell’s conversion made it 3-17.
The pressure continued to come from the Exiles and another well-executed driving maul did the damage. The Irish pack went over the whitewash from a line-out but it was called back by the referee who had spotted foul play and Aaron Carpenter was subsequently sent to the sin-bin. Irish made sure second time around with Paice barrelling over for his second score. Bell missed the extras, 3-22.
The visitors then added a penalty and increased the lead to 23-points by which point any hopes of a comeback were very thin indeed.
A fortnight ago Donny were able to finish with a flurry however this time out the Exiles seemed to improve until the final whistle and when Paul Jarvis was sent to the sin-bin, judged to have tipped tackled Lewington at a ruck, the away lead increased.
The Irish pack recorded their third driving maul try as lock Sebastian De Chaves powered over at the back to increase the lead to 3-30 before a second for score Aseli Tikoirotuma.
The centre started the attack inside his own half, making a powerful break through the Knights defence before offloading to replacement full back Greig Tonks who gave the ball straight back to the Fijian international to go over in the corner.
The Knights continued to graft until the very last play and almost created an opportunity for a late score when Sam Edgerley and Andy Bulumakau linked up nicely down the right wing but to no avail.
Om Saturday the Knights will go to the Madejski with nothing to lose, so (possibly) for one last time in 2016/17 we hope to see you get behind the lads as they aim to put on a show against the league Champs.
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis, Flockhart (Clark 56′), Bulumakau, Hayes, Lewis, Humberstone (Cusack 51′), Heaney (Edgerley 65′), List (Bergmanas 57′), Hunter (Nelson 56′), Quigley (John 45′), Challinor, Young (Williams 43′), Shaw, Hills, Carpenter
London Irish: Bell (Tonks, 68), Lewington, Tikoirotuma, Fergus Mulchrone, Cokanasiga, Marshall, McKibbin (Steele, 62), Hobbs-Awoyemi (Court, 57), Paice (c) (Porecki, 68), Franks (Hoskins, 75), De Chaves (Robson, 63), Sinclair (De Chaves, 70), Coman (Gilsenan, 57), Cowan, Treviranus
Tries: Paice (2), Tikoirotuma (2), Lewington, De Chaves
Referee: Luke Pearce