Doncaster Knights, with a try in the 75th minute, ensured today’s hosts Ealing Trailfinders did not receive a losing bonus point as the Donny men will return home with a 25-17 victory.
It was a hard-worked first half from the Knights squad as they had to contend with needless penalties to head into the changing rooms in the half-time lead.
The scrum seemed a point of contention as both sets of props were penalised, almost in equal measure, for either early engagement or collapsing.
Ealing also suffered on a couple occasions from their jumper coming across the lineout, or not having their own set-piece ball go to hand.
It was on 13 minutes played that the Knights benefited from a well-taken lineout. It was a tough driving maul as scrum half Alex Dolly was told to use it. He shifted the ball out to Mark Best and the centre duly handed ball on to Sam Olver. Spotting the space, Olver put in a chance chip-kick which was well collected by Maliq Holden to run in the first score.
A lovely kick from Olver to convert took the Knights to the full seven points on the scoreboard.
Ealing hit back after 25 minutes played. Taking the advantage in the Knights 22, a chip kick over the defence allowed David Johnston to scamper over the line with ball in hand for the hosts’ opening score.
Craig Willis was lucky with his conversion which rebounded off the left upright to fall through the posts for the extra two points.
Just on the half hour mark, as Olver had just kicked a penalty, Ealing were reduced to 14 men as number eight, Rayn Smid, was sent to the sin bin. The Knights had been looking to break down the wing and as Holden put in a pass to Best, the Trailfinders man deliberately batted the ball down.
Seconds before the whistle for half time, the Knights added to their score. Dolly gave a quick pass to McBryde from the breakdown, allowing the Welshman to direct a long pass Holden’s way – the winger then finished for his second score of the day.
With Olver’s conversion, the Knights ran into the changing rooms 17-7 to the good.
Ealing were able to capitalise on a Knights yellow card early into the second half as Kyle Evans was sent from the field for 10 minutes for an offence not wholly dissimilar to Smid’s.
Luke Daniels took ball out on the wing and, with the Knights defence stretched, he was able to crash over for the second half’s first points. However, with Willis’ conversion attempt bouncing off the uprights, it was just the five points.
The Knights lengthened their lead with another Olver penalty before Ealing re-closed the gap with just six minutes to go. The hosts’ moved the ball fast across the field from a lineout in the Knights 22 and – despite a crushing tackle which looked to have taken him into touch – Smid was announced a try scorer.
With the conversion missed once more, the Knights had a lot of work to do to try to add to their score and rob Ealing of a losing bonus point.
And they did just that a minute later. In almost a complete replica of his score in the home leg of this fixture back in 2021, McBryde ran an intercepted pass the length of the field to score a pivotal try for the Knights. Unfortunately, Olver was unable to convert.
It was tense times from the restart as Ealing bullied their way into the Knights 22. However, the Donny men’s defence held strong and brought about a breakdown penalty. After some checks, it was deemed that was last play and – to the absolute delight of the travelling fans, coaches and players – the final whistle was blown to confirm the Knights as winners.
Ealing Trailfinders XV | 15 David Johnston; 14 Luke Daniels, 13 Max Bodilly, 12 Pat Howard, 11 Angus Kernohan; 10 Craig Willis, 9 Craig Hampson; 1 Will Davis, 2 Jan-Henning Campher, 3 Lewis Thiede, 4 Bobby De Wee, 5 James Cannon, 6 Simon Linsell, 7 Max Northcote-Green, 8 Rayn Smid.
Replacements | 16 Shaun Malton, 17 Kyle Whyte, 18 George Davis, 19 Gary Porter, 20 Barney Maddison, 21 Jordan Burns, 22 Cian Kelleher, 23 Len Massyn.
Tries: Johnston, Daniels, Smid.
Yellow card: Smid.
Knights XV | 15 Billy McBryde; 14 Kyle Evans, 13 Joe Margetts, 12 Mark Best, 11 Maliq Holden; 10 Sam Olver, 9 Joe Green; 1 Conor Davidson, 2 George Edgson, 3 Andrew Foster, 4 John Kelly, 5 Jack Davies, 6 Guido Volpi, 7 Sam Graham (c), 8 Thom Smith.
Replacements | 16 George Roberts, 17 Liam Usher, 18 Charlie Connolly, 19 Josh Peters, 20 Ben Murphy, 21 Alex Dolly, 22 Fraser Strachan, 23 Harry Davey.
Pens: Olver 2.
Tries: Holden 2, McBryde.
Conv: Olver 2.
Yellow card: Evans.
Referee: Hamish Smales.