Knights 17-41 Leinster A.
The Knights can have few qualms about the final result of their 2017/18 British and Irish Cup opener as they were well beaten by an impressive young Leinster side; outscored by five tries to three.
On what was Michael Hills 100th appearance for the Club there was to be no happy ending as Leinster delivered a complete performance to take all five points back home to Dublin.
As they have done often this season, the Knights started well and were quick into the pace of the game. Assertive early phase play and powerful running produced a handful of openings and half chances but nothing was converted into points and after the initial onslaught Leinster found their rhythm.
Fly half Conor Dean struck two penalties to give the visitors a bit of a cheap lead and from this they built.
Leinster opportunities became more frequent as time ticked on and on the thirty-minute mark the Irishmen got the first try of the game.
A turnover on the floor and quick transition had the Knights scrambling and, when a Jimmy O’Brien chip was fielded in the home 22m, Donny players could not get back quickly enough to stop number eight Max Keegan collecting an offload to score.
What followed really put the Knights on the back foot as they went from being three points behind to twenty in just over five minutes.
An overthrown lineout was collected at the back and handed on to Keegan who set off charging towards the Knights line. Back-row partner Will Connors burst forward in support but Keegan dummied and went to get his second score just moments after his first. The successful conversion from Dean made it 0-20 and the Knights had a mountain to climb.
Donny were able to open their account before the interval as they hit back with a tidy score from centre Will Owen. Direct running and good hands opened up some space for Aaron Carpenter to go close out wide and in the next phase Owen hit a hard line to smash his way home before Cusack added the extras.
Leinster’s record in the British and Irish Cup record preceeds them and if the Knights were to have any chance of turning the game around they would need to make a flying start to the second period and, to their credit, they did.
After Michael Heaney was hit late at the restart the Knights made the most of good field position to create some attacking opportunity with Lloyd Hayes and Will Owen interlinking for the latter to almost score his second.
Moments later a second try did go the Knights way after good work in the deep from Charlie Foley. The full back ran a looming clearance kick back with interest before putting Tyson Lewis into a gap and the winger raced away to score; 12-20.
Sadly, this was about as good as it got for the Knights as Leinster really came to the bubble in the closing stages of the game. Almost immediately after Tyson’s try replacement prop Peter Dooley finished a series of offloads to score with the extra points extending Leinster’s cushion to fifteen points.
A slow period of the game followed as both coaching teams called upon their replacements but it was Leinster who scored next, confirming the bonus point through Jeremy Loughman. An untidy line up bounced fortuitously into the path of Oisin Dowling who charged towards the line and, after some last ditch defending, Loughman fought his way over.
Full back Jordan Larmour got the visitors fifth with three minutes left to play as he collected a long range pass to gallop home untouched after the Irish pack established a strong platform at a deep lineout.
To the Knights credit they battled till the very end and it was fitting that Michael Hills should have the final word on his 100th game.
With the result beyond doubt Donny threw everything they had at Leinster to open up some space down the left hand side where possession made it’s way to Hills who finished coolly.
The challenges don’t get any easier for Clive Griffiths’ charges who head to Ashton Gate next Sunday to face the unbeaten league leaders.
Knights; 15) Charlie Foley (Simon Humberstone 72’), 14) Andy Bulumakau, 13) Lloyd Hayes, 12) Will Owen 11) Tyson Lewis, 10) Declan Cusack, 9) Michael Heaney (Tom James 61’), 1) Jack Bergmanas (Colin Quigley 61’), 2) Ben Hunter (Curtis Langdon 56’), 3) Joe Sproston (Ian Williams 61’), 4) Matt Challinor, 5) Morgan Eames (Nick Civetta 38’), 6) Sam Jones (Alex Shaw 55’), 7) Michael Hills ©, 8) Aaron Carpenter.
Replacements; 16) Curtis Langdon, 17) Colin Quigley 18) Ian Williams, 19) Nick Civetta, 20) Alex Shaw, 21) Tom James, 22) Simon Humberstone.
Try; Owen 36’, Lewis 50’, Hills 80’
Conv; Cusack 37’
Leinster A;15. Jordan Larmour, 14. Hugo Keenan, 13. Jimmy O’Brien, 12. Ciarán Frawley, 11. Ian Fitzpatrick (Michael Silvester 72’), 10. Conor Dean (Harry Bryne 67’), 9. Hugh O’Sullivan (Nick McCarthy 50’), 1. Ed Byrne (Peter Dooley 40’), 2. Bryan Byrne (Richardt Strauss 40’), 3. Vakh Abdaladze (Jeremy Loughman 62’), 4. Mick Kearney, 5. Josh Murphy, 6. Peadar Timmins (Oisin Dowling 62’), 7. Will Connors, 8. Max Deegan
Replacements; 16. Richardt Strauss, 17. Peter Dooley, 18. Jeremy Loughman, 19. Oisín Dowling, 20. Nick McCarthy, 21. Harry Byrne, 22. Michael Silvester
Try; Keegan 31’ & 32’, Dooley 54’ Loughman 68’ Larmour 77’
Conv; Dean 31’, 32’, 54’, Byrne 68’ 77’
Pen; Dean 11’, 27’
Referee; Aled Evans