Bedford Blues – 16/04/2016

28Doncaster Knights

24Bedford Blues

2:30 pm · April 16, 2016

Knights 28 Bedford 24.

Doncaster held off Bedford by the skin of their teeth following an incredibly tense showdown to a thrilling game at Castle Park.

A very close, mistake-laden, game between two playoff contenders culminated in a 28-24 victory which guaranteed a highest ever Club finish of second place for the Knights but also secured a playoff place for the Blues.

Bedford sprang up immediately from the off, fly half Myles Dorrain weaving straight through the sleeping Knights’ defence to score within the first fifteen seconds and silence the home crowd. It was the worst possible start for Doncaster, who would have looked stunned if they weren’t looking half-asleep. Dorrian converted the kick to put the visitors seven points in front before the game had even really started.

The Knights have gone behind early in plenty of games this season and battled back so no one was panicking quite yet and they came back powerfully was a serious of strong drives. Alex Shaw enjoyed a productive afternoon and made his presence felt early in the clash, winning every challenge he put himself into and almost catching the Blues out when he thundered past their defensive line six minutes in; gaining a whole heap of ground toward the try line

Opportunities continued to fall for the Knights, Colin Quigley took bites at the Blues’ defence but unfortunately none of the chances had enough support. Doncaster lost the ball a number of times at crucial times, including several stray passes and mistimed catches.

Showing attacking promise is one thing, scoring points is another and Doncaster knew they had to get some on the board if they were to close down Bedford and the deficit. When a penalty was awarded to them on the Blues 22m, Cusack opted for goal and made no mistake bringing the score up to 3-7.

Things were beginning to look more promisingl for the Knights and it looked as though they might score shortly after when Michael Heaney, quick out of the scrum, made a run and found Tyson Lewis on the blindside, but the winger just failed to catch the ball. From that mistake, Bedford took a quick lineout and glided straight past the Knights unorganised defence, similar to how they had done off the first whistle. Tom Griffiths found Josh Buggea who took the ball alarmingly close to the tryline, but was tackled in the nick of time. However, the Blues exploited a scrambling defensive line to outnumber the Knights on the far side and Steffan Jones scored their second try of the game, accompanied by another conversion.

The Knights were 3-14 down and despite having played the better rugby it was Bedford who were in control and looking quite relaxed. It was in the midfield and attacking from loose play that the Blues looked at their strongest. The Knights needed to build some phase play and settle into their rhythm

Alex Shaw and Will Hurrell linked up well and made critical extra yards on a break that finally paid off for the Knights when a regrouped and calculated Knights smartly played the ball wide to put Bedford on the back foot. Matt Challinor was on the end of it, smashing one would be tackler backwards over the line. Cusack failed to convert a wild kick, but it meant that the Knights were only six points down.

Bedford lost two front rows to the sin bin for collapsing the scrum before the half was over as the Knights showed their scrum dominance once again but maintained the lead at the break.

The Knights came out of the tunnel looking like revitalised and took less than two minutes to put the hurt back on Bedford. Latu Makaafi recorded his 17th Championship try of the season as he broke of a driving maul to race over from just inside the 22. Cusack’s successful conversion put Donny in front for the first time.

It wasn’t long after Bedford’s third yellow of the game that Doncaster scored again. Mike Howard walked after collapsing a promising looking driving maul then moments later Mat Clark finished a well work play, combining with Michae Heaney to establish a clear advantage at 22-14.

The Blues began a resurgence following Knight’s stranglehold over the second half. Firstly, a penalty on 54 minutes, converted by Dorrian, put the visitors within a single try of a draw and then ten minutes after, following a yellow card for Jon Phelan, a try from Blues’ Tom Griffiths who cut a superb line to breakthrough and then wrong foot a back-peddling Cusack, the conversation put them back ahead, the score now 22-24.

The Knights made a triple substitution in an effort to halt the opponents’ onslaught, taking off Richard List, Colin Quigley and Latu Makaafi and bringing on Joe Sproston, Riccardo Brugnara and Ollie Steadman.

Clark turned catalyst once again as he was handed the ball following a tackle in the middle of the park and danced through untouched, taking possession to only yards away from the line. The Knights won a pen and Cusack kicked successfully and the 2,446 crowd made the presence heard.

With five minutes to go, Doncaster looked in control despite the narrow lead. Will Hurrell produced a superb bit of defensive work to win a penalty on the floor and Cusack added another three to ease the nerves slightly.

The final few minutes got pretty scrappy and tensions very nearly boiled over a couple of times. The Blues blew caution to the wind but could not find a way through the Knights determined defence. After what seemed like an eternity the Knights won a penalty which Cusack thumped to touch to end the game.

It was far from a vintage display for the Knights but a win nonetheless against one of the division’s top sides. Whatever happens from this point of the season, this crop of Knights now know they have made Club history with a second place finish in the Championship.

Match Statistics

Knights XV; 15) Paul Jarvis, 14) Andy Bulumakau, 13) Mat Clark, 12) Will Hurrell, 11) Tyson Lewis, 10) Dec Cusack, 9) Michael Heaney, 1) Rich List, 2) Ben Hunter, 3) Colin Quigley, 4) Matt Challinor, 5) Jon Phelan, 6) Latu Makaafi, 7) Michael Hills (C), 8) Alex Shaw.

Replacements; 16) Vili Veikoso, 17) Joe Sproston, 18) Riccardo Brugnara, 19) Glen Young, 20) Ollie Stedman, 21) Ollie Bryant, 22) Ben White.

Tries; Challinor 32’, Makaafi 43’, Clark 51’,

Pens; Cusack 13’, 71’, 73,

Conv; Cusack 43’, 51’

Blues XV; 15. Steffan Jones, 14. George Perkins, 13. Michael LeBourgeois (c), 12. Tom Griffiths, 11. Dean Adamson, 10. Myles Dorrian, 9. Henry Taylor, 1. Tom Williams, 2. Charlie Clare, 3. Phil Boulton, 4. Mike Howard, 5. Mark Flanagan, 6. Justin Blanchet, 7. Josh Buggea, 8. Paul Tupai

Replacements; 16. James Currie, 17. Camilo Parilli-Ocampo, 18. Harry Wells, 19. Nick Fenton-Wells, 20. Jordan Burns, 21. Jake Sharp, 22. Henry Staff

Tries; Dorrian 1’, Jones 19’ Griffiths 66’

Pens; Dorrian 54’

Conv; Dorrian1’, 19’, Sharp 66’

Oliver Smith

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