Bristol Rugby – 06/11/2015

27Bristol Rugby

39Doncaster Knights

7:45 pm · November 6, 2015

Bristol Rugby 27 v Doncaster Knights 39

Despite what has been an undoubtedly impressive start to the season, few would have predicted that the Knights would travel to Ashton Gate and hand the Championship leaders a 27-39 beating to return to South Yorkshire with a maximum return of points and leave Bristol with nothing…..but that’s exactly what happened.

In what was described by Director of Rugby Clive Griffiths as one of the finest displays in his time at Castle Park, his side produced a thrilling display to outscore a star-studded Bristol by five tries to three and go within three points of the division’s summit.

There would have been very few that would have predicted a Donny win pre-game and even fewer after the start the Knights made. A mistake from Sam Edgerley at the kick off gave the hosts a scrum put in inside the Doncaster 22m and over eagerness from the front row saw Bristol awarded a free kick. The kick was tapped quickly and then promptly put through hands and a scrambling Knights defence left a hole big enough for outside centre Jack Tovey to break through. Gavin Henson comfortably slotted the extras and it seemed as if we were going to be in for a long night.

In slippy conditions, on the impressive Ashton Gate hybrid surface, both sides looked to test the handling of their opponents and having impressively collected a looming up and under Latu Makaafi produced a deft grubber kick into the home 22m. Jack Wallace raced to retrieve it but the kick chase was strong and the full back was forced into touch. The driving line out has been one of the main weapons in the Knights artillery this season and that continued to be the case, as after Michael Hills collected at the front the Donny packed patiently assembled a rolling maul. The ball was worked to the back and as the home defences creaked Makaafi barged his way over with Dougie Flockhart levelling the scores with a successful conversion.

The opening try buoyed the Knights who began to enjoy a bit more attacking freedom whilst restricting the hosts who had the majority of early possession. However, the Tyson Lewis’ try on 18th minute was a joy to behold. A beautifully executed training ground move saw Dec Cusack carry to the line before giving an inside pass to the oncoming Will Hurrell who burst through the gap. The centre looked out wide to find Ben Hunter in support and flung a wide pass to his front row teammate, Hunter collected at full stretch and managed to get the ball away before possession was spun to Tyson. With space in front of him the mainstay winger would not be stopped and sprinted home to put the Knights into the lead for the first time in the game. Flockhart, who was immaculate with the boot all night, bisected the uprights with the extras, 7-14.

After this the game settled down somewhat, the hosts continued to have the majority of possession but found themselves frustrated by resilient Knights defence whereas Donny seemed to create a number of attacking opportunities with the relatively little possession they had. Once such opportunity culminated in Lewis with possession in open space in the Bristol half; a back peddling home defence eventually hauled down the winger but a penalty went the Knights way in the subsequent phase. Cusack elected to put the forwards in the corner and they were inch perfect in their line out execution, a well taken ball was followed by a powerful maul and Makaafi dotted down for his 11th of the season. Flockhart slotted the extras and with half an hour gone the Knights lead by 14.

A Bristol reaction was inevitable and it came shortly after through a driving maul of their own. The hosts won a penalty at a scrum in the Knights half and Henson elected to go into the corner. A solid initial defensive hit was well-ridden by the home pack who reorganized and drove to put replacement Nick Koster over and Henson made it a seven point score.

With less than ten minutes to go to half time the Knights needed to ensure they got back into the sheds with their lead intact. Bristol went up a gear as the clock ticked towards forty but the Knights fierce defense continued to keep them at bay, and with just second left on the clock good work from the home pack forced a scrum penalty in the home half. Flockhart quickly put himself forward to take the shot at goal and did not disappoint. Half time score Bristol 14 Knights 24.

Bristol have not climbed to the top of the league by luck and it was expected that the Knights would need to produce another colossal effort to see the game out however nerves were starting to twitch in the third quarter. A rejuvenated Bris flew out of the traps for the second stanza and had touched down within five minutes of the resumption. Having gained good field position from a midfield penalty Bris generated quick phase play following a series of powerful carries, Jack Tovey in particular proving a threat with ball in hand. After making their way i to the Knights 22m Will Cliff spotted a gap at the edge of the ruck and went for it, the scrum half just managed to scamper through before putting his foot down and running under the sticks.

Following the score the Knights were subjected to a barrage of home attacks and their task was made harder after Makaafi was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Jack Wallace. Despite the numerical disadvantage and seemingly endless phases of attack the Knights defence simply refused to break and did not concede any further points the game’s closing stages.

Quite possibly the biggest cheer of the evening came when it was announced that Welsh international Matthew Morgan was to enter the field of play in place of Gavin Henson and it was Morgan’s boot that brought Bristol back on level terms. Having initially stood off an established maul from the hosts Dean Richards then penalized the Donny pack and Morgan slotted the three pointer.

With ten minutes, or so the scoreboard said, to play both managers made a plethora of substitutions and the fixture really opened up, this worked to the Knights favour who tore the home defences apart in the game’s dying minutes. Clever build up and an impressive level of calm saw the Knights work their way up field before and a switch in the direction of play created a half gap for winger Dougie Flockhart. Under heavy coverage Dougie was able to fight his way over the line and following a brief conversation with the touch judge the try was awarded. The Scotsman produced his only miss of the evening with the conversion to leave the Knights ahead by five.

Flockhart got the chance to redeem himself just moments later when sensational play from the Knights tight five forced a penalty after Brad Field had generated good field position with a well weighted kick to touch. The on target attempt looked as if it had sealed the game for the Knights and denied the hosts a bonus point, it was certainly more than enough for the droves of home fans that were exiting the ground, but Donny were not done!

Bristol desperately went on the attack with the game all over but when Nick Koster ran into Jack Bergmanas, the replacement loose head showed impressive strength to strip the back rower of the ball. Bergmanas fed Vili Veikoso, who had produced some thunderous tackles since entering the field of play on 70 minutes, and the hooker charged over from 20 metres out. Flockhart added the extras and the full time whistle was blown.

This was one of the finest performances the Knights have produced for some seasons, not only to beat a Championship leading Bristol side packed with internationally capped talent but to do it away from home and secure maximum points in the process. Job well done!

Match Statistics

Bristol; 15) Jack Wallace, 14) Tom Varndell, 13) Jack Tovey, 12) Ben Mosses, 11) Ryan Edwards, 10) Gavin Henson (Matthew Morgan 55’), 9) Will Cliff (Craig Hampson 76’), 1) Jack O’Connell (Ellis Genge 35’), 2) Ross McMillan, 3) Gaston Cortes (Anthony Perenise 51’), 4) Joe Joyce, 5) Glen Townson (Mark Sorenson 55’), 6) James Phillips, 7) Josh Ovens (Nick Koster 29’), 8) Rayn Smid (Max Crumpton 80’).

Replacements: 16) Max Crumpton, 17) Ellis Genge, 18) Anthony Perenise, 19) Mark Sorenson, 20) Nick Koster, 21) Craig Hampson, 22) Matthew Morgan.

Tries; Tovey 2’, Koster 35’, Cliff 45’

Conv; Henson 3’, 35’, 45’

Pens; Morgan 69’, 80’

Knights; 15) Paul Jarvis, 14) Dougie Flockhart, 13) Mat Clark, 12) Will Hurrell, 11) Tyson Lewis, 10) Declan Cusack, 9) Sam Edgerley (Brad Field 61’), 1) Richard List (Jack Bergmanas 64’), 2) Ben Hunter (Vili Veikoso 70’), 3) Colin Quigley (WillGriff John 64’), 4) Matt Challinor, 5) Jon Phelan, 6) Latu Makaafi, 7) Michael Hills ©, 8) Alex Shaw.

Replacements; 16) Jack Bergmanas, 17) Vili Veikoso, 18) WillGriff John, 19) Tyler Hotson, 20) Glen Young, 21) Sam Olver, 22) Brad Field.

Tries; Makaafi 10’, 29’, Lewis 18’, Flockhart 74’, Veikoso 80’

Conv; Flockart 11’, 18’, 30’, 80’

Pens; Flockart 40’, 79

Sin bin; Makaafi 49’

Referee; Dean Richards

Attendance; 6,979

Our Partners