The Knights extended their unbeaten home record with a cagey victory over an energetic, attacking London Scottish side.
It was by no means a vintage performance from Doncaster, but they showed outstanding grit and determination to weather a serious second half fight-back from the visitors.
The Knights took a blow in the opening moments as skipper for the day Richard List left the field for a Head Injury Assessment and it didn’t take Scottish long to put points on the board as full-back Peter Lydon showed his kicking prowess early with an on target penalty; 0-3.
It was Scottish who held the upper hand for most the first half at Castle Park; exploiting errors in the Knights line-out which looked uncharacteristically shaky early on. Lydon doubled the away lead shortly before the quarter point as the Knights were penalised for not rolling away, 0-6.
Thankfully Donny find their rhythm not long after, Harry Allen was eventually able to get the line-out functioning and the forwards begin to assert some sustained pressure on their opposites. Good work from Mat Clark won the Knights a penalty and Richard List, back from his HIA, dropped over for the game’s first try at the back of a patient driving maul which was converted by Dec Cusack.
Allen’s try gave Doncaster the kickstart they needed. With good field position secured after a midfield penalty was awarded following an off the ball incident at the List try, the Knights looked to attack. Clark was stopped just inches from the try-line, the ball was then pulled back to fly-half Cusack who nudged a kick through to the onrushing Sean Scanlon who finished superbly; grounding the ball millimetres in from the dead ball line.
Scottish looked to respond in the dying stages of the first half and went wide after a line out deep in the Knights 22m. Great awareness from Lloyd Hayes saw the centre expertly pick off a pass from the visitors number 8 Ifereimi Boladau and sprint off down field with no one able to lay a glove as he scored under the posts. Cusack’s conversion made the half time score 21-6.
Home fans thinking Scottish may roll over following the late first half onslaught were quickly corrected as the Exiles raced out of the traps in the second half.
Almost immediately after the restart the Scots pinned Donny back to their own try line where only good defending saw possession held up in goal. The resistance didn’t last long as a good line out drive got the visitors over the line where winger Jason Harries found himself with the ball and was able to get over for the first of a hat-trick of tries.
Harries second of the day came a mere three minutes later, fly-half Harry Sheppard looked up to exploit a mismatch in the Knights defence setting up a two on one that the winger was only too happy to finish.
The hat-trick was complete shortly after the hour mark and looked all too easy. A rock solid scrum in the Knights 22m provided a platform for the Exiles to shift possession wide with some rangey miss passes; Donny scrambled to cover but to no avail and Harries crossed in the corner.
Lydon’s conversion went wide but the Scots had now scored 17-unanswered second half points and retaken the lead; 21-23.
The Knights desperately needed to stem the Scottish attacking flow and reassert themselves on the fixture. Thankfully, a reaction came in the final twenty minutes that saw the Knights deliver some effective attacking play to secure a crucial five points win.
Well linked phases and a series of imposing carries from the Knights forwards and backs eventually began to stretch the Scottish defence, with men outwide Cusack nudged a deft grubber into the goal area and at full tilt Tyson Lewis dived on it to put the Knights back in the driving seat.
The Knights were able to keep the Scots late efforts under control and put the game past London Scottish with two minutes remaining on the clock.
A brilliant kick from replacement scrum-half Ben White found touch just inside the corner flag and as Scottish desperately looked to attack a quick line out was fielded in goal. The Knights defence swarmed the visiting backs and a penalty for holding on was forced in front of the sticks. Cusack made no error and established a six point lead which was held until the final whistle.
The Knights remain secure in fourth place following today’s five pointer and now have a fortnight to rest and recover until they face their next challenge; an away trip to Headingley and the first Friday night game of the season.
Knights XV; 15. Sean Scanlon, 14. Paul Jarvis, 13. Lloyd Hayes, 12. Mat Clark, 11. Tyson Lewis, 10. Declan Cusack, 9. Michael Heaney (Ben White 72’), 1. Richard List (Robin Hislop 52), 2. Harry Allen (Ben Hunter 52), 3. WillGriff John (Colin Quigley 68’), 4. Matt Challinor, 5. David Nolan, 6. Jarad Williams, 7. Beau Robinson, 8. Alex Shaw (Latu Maakafi 45’)
Replacements; 16. Robin Hislop, 17. Ben Hunter, 18. Colin Quigley, 19. Latu Makaafi, 20. Joe Sproston, 21. Dougie Flockhart, 22. Ben White
Tries; List 31’, Scanlon 35’, Hayes 40’, Lewis 67’
Conv; Cusack 31’, 35’, 40’
Scottish XV: 15. Peter Lydon, 14. Craig Holland, 13. Robbie Fergusson, 12. Patrick Kelly (Thomas Galbraith 72’), 11. Jason Harries, 10. Harry Sheppard, 9. Jamie Stevenson, 1. Grant Shiells (Jonathan Harris 39’), 2. David Cherry (Cameron Fenton 78’), 3. Ewan McQuillin (Taniela Koroi 47’), 4. Rory Bartle, 5. Neale Patrick, 6. Alastair Miller, 7. Joseph Atkinson, 8. Ifereimi Boladau.
Replacements: 16. Cameron Fenton, 17. Jonathan Harris, 18. Taniela Koroi, 19. Dominic McGeekie, 20. Matthew Marley, 21. Edward Hoadley, 22. Thomas Galbraith
Tries; Harries 46’, 50’, 61’
Conv; Lydon 50’
Pens; Lydon 7’, 19
Written by Connor Hickinbottom