Hartpury 21-32 Knights
Doncaster Knights held off a spirited Hartpury side to extend their unbeaten start to the 2021 campaign.
Former Hartpury student Ben Hunter secured the victory, and a bonus –point, as he crashed over in the final minutes of an enthralling encounter meaning the Knights have made their best start to a league campaign since winning the National One title in 2013/14.
Lively starts have been a feature of the Knights early season form and after an early penalty attempt from home fly-half Josh Bragman dropped wide the Knights bossed the opening exchanges.
The Donny set piece was on song throughout and created the platform for the game’s opening score.
With quick ball off the top of a midfield line out Jack Spittle made it deep into the Hartpury 22m before being hauled down short of the line. From the resulting breakdown Bragman deliberately knocked on, was sin-binned and Sam Olver Kicked to the corer
Guido Volpi got his hands on possession after the Donny drive was stopped and would not be denied from close range with Olver converting for a seven-point score.
The Knights were relentless following the try and quickly extended their lead with a fine piece of running rugby.
A well-executed lineout put the backs on the front-foot, interlinking flawlessly to create space for Billy McBryde to release Jack Spittle. With a bit of fresh air ahead of him the winger put his foot down to race over in the corner.
With a 12-point advantage and momentum firmly behind them things could not be going better but the Kights were brought back down to earth abruptly when Robbie Smith scored against the run of play.
The centre cleverly read an Olver pass to intercept and trot home untouched; out of the sin bin, Bragman converted 7-12.
The reaction to conceding was instant from Doncaster who registered a third try almost immediately after.
Jack Spittle showed his class again with another first phase try, collecting a short pass from Ben Hunter who had peeled smartly off the tail of the line out. Despite Hunter’s good work the winger still had plenty to do but managed to evade any would be tacklers to run it in under the sticks & Olver converted.
Olver added a penalty shortly after the half hour mark and the Knights were good value for their 15-point lead.
The Students battled back again & ran in a second score to make it all to play for in the second half. A kick ahead from Will Partington bounced awkwardly for the Knights outside backs and Ben Foley won his race to ground in goal with Bragman’s conversion making it 14-22 at the interval.
The second half was a much more even contest with the hosts reemerging from the changing rooms with real purpose.
The Knights lead was reduced on fifty-five minutes when Hartpury muscled home with a driving lineout; replacement front row Will Crane confirmed as the scorer. Another successful Bragman conversion made it 21-25 and when Bomber Hislop was sin-binned moments later if felt like momentum has swung completely.
The next ten minutes saw the Knights defend will full-blooded commitment to prevent further scores while reduced in numbers. Great work at the line out saw Jerry Sexton interrupt several home throws as the Knights continued to clear their lines.
Once restored to a full compliment the Knights went back on the attack & wrapped up the win with a Ben Hunter score which also secured a bonus point. The hooker rounded off a fine performance to dot down at the back of a driving line out. Olver kicked the extras putting the Knights 11-points ahead and out of sight.
A third win in a row for the Knights and a performance packed full of positives which sets things up nicely for the visit of Cornish Pirates to Castle Park on Saturday!
Hartpury XV| 15. Will Partington, 14. Tom Stanton, 13. Robbie Smith, 12. James Williams, 11. Ben Foley, 10. Joshua Bragman, 9. Will Flinn (Calum Waters 62’), 1. Ashley Challenger (Olly Adkins 40’), 2. Nick Selway (Will Crane 47’), 3. Shaun Knight (Cameron Holenstein 64’), 4.Dale Lemon (c), 5. Scott Russell (Arthur Clark 57’), 6. Aled Ward, 7. Will Safe (Josh Gray 67’), 8. Harry Wilson (Arthur Clark 58’)
Replacements| 16. Will Crane 17. Olly Adkins 18. Cameron Holenstein 19. Ehize Ehizode 20. Arthur Clark 21. Josh Gray 22. Calum Waters 23. George Simpson
Tries; Smith 21’, Foley 37’, Crane 55’
Conv; Bragman 21’, 37’, 55’
Knights XV | 15 Billy McBryde, 14 Kyle Evans (Howard Packman 40’), 13 Charlie Foley (Mark Best 70’), 12 Connor Edwards, 11 Jack Spittle, 10 Sam Olver, 9 Gus Warr (Reiss Cullen 75’), 1 Bomber Hislop (c) (Conrad Cade 70’), 2 Ben Hunter (Will Holling 70’), 3 Joe Jones (Gaz Denman 55’), 4 Matt Challinor, 5 Jerry Sexton, 6 John Kelly (Conor Joyce 67’), 7 Sam Graham, 8 Guido Volpi (Jack Davies 58’).
Replacements | 16 Will Holling 17 Conrad Cade 18 Gaz Denman 19 Jack Davies 20 Conor Joyce 21 Reiss Cullen 22 Mark Best 23 Howard Packman
Tries; Volpi 9’, Spittle 19’, 25’, Hunter 70’
Pen; Olver 29’, 49’
Conv; Olver 9’, 25’, 70’