Ealing Trailfinders – 03/10/2015

23Doncaster Knights

17Ealing Trailfinders

2:30 pm · October 3, 2015

Knights 23 Ealing 17

Doncaster Knights bounced back from last weekend’s derby defeat to claim a hard-fought victory in an attritional contest with Championship newcomers, Ealing Trailfinders.

Having gone into the break trailing the Londoners 6-10, the Knights burst into life after an uninspiring opening stanza to seize control of a hugely physical contest. Ealing rallied in the closing stages, bringing themselves within six, but the Doncaster defence stood firm.

The Knights received the kick off, sparking a frenetic opening which culminated in Mat Clark losing the ball forward just outside his own 22m gifting Ealing possession in a threatening position. From the resulting scrum, the Trailfinders looked to attack the gain line with some aggressive forward play. The Knights scrambled to cull the threat but ill-discipline at the breakdown presented Alex Davies with the first opportunity to register points with a penalty. The scrum half duly obliged from the tee.

Neither side held anything back after the restart, the collisions were brutal and the breakdown battle was fiercely competitive. The penalty looked to have settled the visitors’ nerves, as they began to build pressure through a series of effective line breaks on the back of solid maul situations. As the clock hit the ten minute mark, the Knights were dealt a huge blow as fullback Paul Jarvis was sent to the bin after he was judged to have cynically interfered with a try-scoring opportunity for the visitors.

The Knights were up against it without their full complement and their line was eventually breached in the 20th minute. With lineout ball inside the Knights’ 22m, prop forward, Nathan Buck positioned himself intelligently at the base of a rolling maul, retaining possession as the drive was established before burrowing his way over the whitewash. Alex Davies notched the extras with a nice kick from a tricky angle, stretching the Trailfinders’ lead out to 10 points.

It would not be unfair to say that the Knights had failed to find their rhythm in the opening quarter and, despite a fearsome defensive effort, struggled to retain meaningful possession in the opposition half. In a rare foray into Ealing territory, the Knights gained promising field position with a succession of powerful drives from the pack. As the Knights rumbled ever closer to the line, The Traillfinders began to look stretched. An infringement at the ruck gave the Knights their first chance of points. Michael Heaney made no mistake with a simple kick, putting the Knights on the board.

As half time loomed, the Knights seemed to grow in confidence. There was a real sense of urgency and tempo about their play, a series of line breaks brought them inside the visitors’ 22m and it seemed inevitable that a try would be scored. Repeated Ealing infringements at the ruck took the sting out of the Knights’ growing threat, albeit illegally. The referee inevitably lost his patience with the Ealing defensive effort on 34 minutes awarding the Knights a penalty and sending the Trailfinders’ fullback, Alex Davies, to the sin bin. A very kickable penalty was dispatched with comfortably as Michael Heaney cut the deficit to just four. The Knights continued to press after the restart and came agonisingly close to sneaking into a half time lead, but yet another handling error brought the first stanza to a close. The Knights went into the sheds with plenty to ponder after an error-strewn opening period.

After the break, the Knights looked to gain advantage through the forwards in a move that proved to pay dividends. A fierce rolling maul was set in the midfield shortly after the restart and the Knights rumbled forward ominously, before poor handling again let them down. Ill-discipline then let Ealing off the hook again, as the Knights were reprimanded at scrum time. The resulting penalty allowed the Trailfinders to clear their lines, but a nice break and some impressive offloads after a vital turnover at the ruck, allowed Tyson Lewis to press deep inside the opposition 22m. The ball was recycled quickly and a powerful drive from Latu Makaafi saw him bundle his way over for the score, nudging the Knights in front. Heaney again added the extras with sweetly struck conversion.

The Knights looked re-energized after the score and burst into the visitors’ 22m again from the restart. A maul was eventually pulled down and the hosts elected to kick to the corner. An untidy feed at the lineout saw the Knights lose possession, only for an Ealing hand to knock the ball forward, gifting Doncaster an attacking scrum just 5m metres out.

The Knights were solid at scrum time and that continued, with a forceful shove at the set-piece providing the platform to launch an unrelenting assault on the Trailfinders’ line. After building through the phases, the Knights bagged their second score with Latu Makaafi barging his way over again from close range. Heaney kept his perfect record intact with another assured conversion. The Knights led by 10 going into the final quarter and briefly extended that to 13 with Heaney notching his third penalty of the match after Ealing were penalised for holding on. Doncaster looked in complete control at this point and continued to press forward.

As the Knights threatened to run away with it, a decisive turnover at the ruck and some deft handling skills opened the space for Ealing replacement Callum Wilson to sprint home unopposed, after a neat exchange in the midfield. Davies slotted the conversion, bringing the visitors to within a converted score of an unlikely victory. The closing ten minutes were frantic, Ealing pressed in the hope of snatching victory but the Knights countered the threat with ferocious and disciplined defence. The Trailfinders kept coming until the very last, but the Knights resolve could not be broken as they held on to secure a 3rd of the Championship season.

Match Statistics

Knights XV; 15) Paul Jarvis, 14) Sam Edgerley, 13) Mat Clark, 12) Will Hurrell, 11) Tyson Lewis, 10) Michael Heaney, 9) Brad Field, 1) Richard List (Joe Sproston 74′), 2) Ben Hunter (Ted Stagg 64′), 3) Jake Armstrong (WillGriff John 68′), 4) Matt Challinor, 5) Tyler Hotson (Jon Phelan 40′), 6) Latu Makaafi, 7) Michael Hills ©, 8) Ollie Stedman (Glen Young 76′).

REPLACEMENTS; 16) Ted Stagg, 17) Joe Sproston, 18) Jake Armstrong, 19) Jon Phelan, 20) Glen Young, 21) Dougie Flockhart 22) Josh Sharp.

Tries; Makaafi 46′ & 56′

Conv; Heaney 46′, 56′

Pens; Heaney 23′, 34′, 64′

Ealing XV; 15) Alex Davies, 14) Rhys Crane, 13) Toby Howley-Berridge, 12) Joe Munro, 11) James Stephenson, 10) Tristan Roberts (Callum Wilson 62′), 9) Alex Walker (Matt Thompson 57′), 1) Will Davis (George Porter 52′), 2) Alun Walker (Tom Bliss 71′), 3) Nathan Buck (Michael Holford 52′), 4) Nathan Hannay (Llewelyn Jones 52′) (Harrison Orr 70′), 5) Carwyn Jones, 6) Adam Preocanin, 7) Danny Kenny, 8) Chris York (captain).

REPLACEMENTS; 16) George Porter, 17) Matt Thompson, 18) Michael Holford, 19) Llewelyn Jones, 20) Harrison Orr, 21) Tom Bliss, 22) Callum Wilson.

Tries; Buck 20′ Wilson 67′

Conv; Davies 67′, 20′

Pens; Davies 2′

Written by Dean Page

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