Doncaster Knights secured a 22-15 bonus-point win against tough competition in the form of Cornish Pirates at Castle Park today.
It was a gutsy performance from the home side as they scored all four tries in the first half and despite a comeback from the visitors, the hosts were able to see them off.
It was a contentious first half as Pirates were ravaged by penalties and two yellow cards in as many minutes.
The Knights struck first after 12 minutes as a determined driving maul had them crashing over the whitewash. George Edgson emerged from the bottom of the pile to be heralded as the opening try scorer. Unusual bad luck at the kicking tee struck Sam Olver as his conversion drifted wide.
Pirates took their own points a few minutes later when they moved the ball quickly off their rolling maul to send Matt Bolwell over, with the score converted by Arwell Robson.
Just shy of half an hour played, the Knights scored their second. This time it was lock John Kelly who rose from the rubble at the try line but Olver’s kicking misfortune continued.
At 33 minutes, Pirates back row Antonio Kiri Kiri was sent to the sin bin for repeated infringements as the opposition looked to defend their line. Not two minutes later, he was joined by Jack Andrew as the prop was shown a yellow card, again for repeated infringements.
It didn’t take the Knights long to utilise their man advantage. In what looked to be their habit of the day, they crashed over in a pile having worked the short repeated phases. Thom Smith was announced the try scorer but it was just the five points to be taken.
Tempers flared on the half time marker as players had to be separated from one another. The Knights cooled their heads quickly though and scored a fourth. Edgson claimed his second of the day and sent the Knights 13 points ahead.
Following his first successful kick of the day, Olver good-naturedly turned to the main stand to give them a cheeky laugh and a shrug, acknowledging his earlier misfortune at the tee.
Pirates emerged for the second half looking determined to better their penalty-affected first half performance. They added three points to their tally five minutes into the half when the Knights were called offside and Robson went for the posts.
Just after an hour played, Pirates scored their second try of the day. The Knights looked to have expected a driving maul off the lineout, so Pirates popped ball out quickly to Josh Caulfield, allowing the forward to scamper over. With no conversion, it was a seven-point gap on the scoreboard.
The last 20 minutes of the game were hectic. Maliq Holden had an ankle tap put in on him which sent him crashing to the ground, forcing him off for a HIA. The sides had to be separated for a second time in the encounter which caused the referee to consult his line judge and overturn a penalty which would have gone to Pirates had they not had a good hand in the fracas.
A prolonged break in play occurred just two minutes shy of the end of regulation 80 minutes when Thom Cowan-Dickie looked to have put in a no-arms tackle of John Kelly – sending both himself and the Donny lock to the floor and in need of treatment. Both players left the field of their own accord following some attention from their respective medial teams.
And finally, it was heart-in-mouth stuff as the Knights were forced to defend on their line in extra-time as Pirates went to the short, sharp phases. As had been a marker of the game however, penalties got the better of the visitors. Having secured the deciding one, McBryde stepped up to tap the ball into touch to end the encounter.
It wasn’t an easy day at the office by any means, but perhaps was a true marker of the unity of this Knights squad that they were able to emerge victorious over such tough opposition in an extremely important fixture.
The Knights crowd will definitely have left Castle Park today happy with their result, and delighted to have seen great rugby whilst bathing in the spring sunshine.
Starting 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 Ben Murphy, 6 Sam Hudson, 7 Sam Graham (c), 8 Thom Smith.
Replacements | 16 George Roberts, 17 Joe Wrafter, 18 Charlie Connolly, 19 Josh Peters, 20 Jack Davies, 21 Harry Davey, 22 Connor Edwards, 23 Guido Volpi.
Tries: Edgson 2, Kelly, Smith.
Cornish Pirates XV | 15 Carwyn Penny; 14 Callum Sirker, 13 Tommy Wyatt, 12 Shae Tucker, 11 AJ Cant; 10 Arwell Robson, 9 Tom Kessell; 1 Jack Andrew, 2 Tom Channon, 3 Alfie Petch, 4 Josh Caulfield, 5 Danny Cutmore, 6 Matt Bolwell, 7 Antonio Kiri Kiri, 8 Tom Duncan (c).
Replacements | 16 Thomas Cowan Dickie, 17 Marlen Walker, 18 Samuel Rodman, 19 Cory Teague, 20 William Gibson, 21 Alexander Schwarz, 22 Joseph Elderkin, 23 Robin Wedlake.
Tries: Bolwell, Caulfield.
Yellow card: Kiri Kiri, Andrew.
Referee: Mike Hudson.