London Irish proved to be too strong for the Knights as they won the final league game of the season 22-5.
The Exiles pulled away just after the half time interval with two quick-fire tries giving the visitors an unassailable 22-point lead.
The score line was perhaps a little harsh on the the Knights who were competitive for the vast majority of the tie.
The sides now have a two-week break before they face each other again, this time in the semi-finals of the Greene King IPA Championship play-offs – the Castle Park leg taking place on Sunday April 30th. [TICKETS ON SALE NOW]
The Knights started brightly and dominated the early proceedings, big carries from Joe Sproston and Matt Challinor gave Donny a solid platform to build from and The Exiles looked slightly rocked.
The pressure almost paid off for the Knights, Michael Heaney intercepted a pass in midfield and broke downfield, the ball was given to Richard List on the wing who barrelled his way downfield earning a penalty for his efforts. The Knights opted for the corner but a powerful maul proved in vain as Irish turned the ball over.
The impressive opening, frustratingly, did not yield any points for the Knights and on the quarter hour mark Irish opened the scoring as full-back Tommy Bell put over a penalty; albeit via a deflection from the uprights - 3-0.
Bell had another chance for points just a few minutes later, some excellent work on the floor by Ofisa Treviranus on his 100th game gave the former Leicester Tiger what looked to be a simple kick but the blustery conditions proved to be too much to handle and the Knights went unpunished.
Having started the game so well, the Knights pressure had dissipated and the Exiles were dominating at scrum-time - collecting frequent penalties. Despite this, the Knights finished the first half with some excellent expansive rugby, Andy Bulumakau looked at his unpredictable best with the Irish backline struggling to keep track of his movements time and time again promising attacks came to nothing.
The same could not be said for the visitors and following a dropped ball in midfield they quickly turned defence to attack and made it pay
With possession promptly moved wide winger Alex Lewington broke through the line with an outstanding turn of pace to score; Bell missed the conversion and the sides went into the break with Irish in the lead by eight.
The opening forty had enough promise for optimism from the home support however it was quashed shortly after the restart. The Exiles added a second try just minutes after the break, Ben Hunter was adjudged to have brought down a maul illegally, the referee awarded the Exiles a penalty try and showed Hunter a yellow card for his actions. 15-0
With Hunter off the pitch the Exiles went enjoyed their finest spell of the game and a second try swiftly followed. With a man advantage the Irish packed turned over scrum ball and Aseli Tikoirotuma ran a powerful line through the Knights defence before passing inside to Brendan McKibbin who went under the posts. 22-0
It looked as if the visitors might open the floodgates but the Knights responded well and quickly found themselves back in the Irish half. They were, however, unable to break down a resolute Irish defence who were showing why they have only been beaten once in the league this season.
Lewis went close for the Knights, Heaney spotting the winger with room and quickly sending the ball out to him but Tyson was unable to add to his 13-try tally and another Donny attack ended in no points.
The Knights replacements seemed to add purpose to their play, Sam Edgerley brought a tempo to Doncaster’s game whilst Latu Makaafi proved a menace with some rampaging carries.
Irish were themselves reduced in number shortly after as Tommy Bell hit Andy Bulumakau without use of his arms, worryingly for the Castle Park faithful Bulumakau was taken off the pitch on a stretcher but appears not to have been seriously harmed.
Play resumed with little over ten minutes to play and the Knights really blew caution to the wind. Ambitious off-loading and relentless attacking play seemed to be stretching the visitors who had another man in the bin for a dangerous tack; Tikoirotuma the one to walk this time.
The Exiles defensive record speaks and they put on master class in seeing a game out in the late stages of this clash but just as it looked as if Irish were going to record home and away clean sheets against the Knights they finally found a way. Simon Humberstone put a deft kick behind the Irish defence which was collected by Lewis who raced in to score in the corner; Flockhart’s conversion hit the posts. 22-5
Doncaster will face off against Irish again in two weeks’ time in the first leg of their 2016/17 play-off campaign and whilst Irish will undoubtedly head into the fixture as firm favourites the Knights showed today that they will certainly be a match for their illustrious opponents in the knock outs.
Knights; 15) Sean Scanlon, 14) Dougie Flockhart, 13) Andy Bulumakau (Simon Humberstone 64’), 12) Lloyd Hayes, 11) Tyson Lewis, 10) Dec Cusack, 9) Michael Heaney (Sam Edgerley 59’), 1) Richard List (Jack Bergmanas 52’), 2) Ben Hunter (Dave Nelson 42’), 3) Joe Sproston (Colin Quigley 52’), 4) Matt Challinor (Jarad Williams 53’), 5) Glen Young, 6) Alex Shaw, 7) Michael Hills (C) (Latu Makaafi 56’), 8) Aaron Carpenter,
Replacements; 16) Jack Bergmanas, 17) Dave Nelson, 18) Colin Quigley, 19) Jarad Williams, 20) Latu Makaafi, 21) Sam Edgerley, 22) Simon Humberstone.
Try; Lewis 79’
London Irish: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 12 Theo Brophy Clews (Topso Ojo 65’), 11 Joe Cokanasiga, 10 Greig Tonks, 9 Brendan McKibbin (Scott Steele 55’), 1 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Tom Court 56’), 2 David Paice (c) (Dave Porecki 60’), 3 Ben Franks (Ollie Hoskins 66’), 4 Sebastian De Chaves, 5 Jebb Sinclair (Will Lloyd 65’), 6 Mike Coman, 7 Blair Cowan (Connor Gilsenan 60’), 8 Ofisa Treviranus
Replacements: 16 Dave Porecki, 17 Tom Court, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Will Lloyd, 20 Conor Gilsenan, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Topsy Ojo
Try; Lewington 40’, Penalty 42’, McKibbin 48’
Conv; Bell 42’, 48’
Pens; Bell 14’,
Words by Connot Hickinbottom.
I/C John Ashton.