Knights 36 Bedford Blues 20
The Knights entered their third British & Irish Cup fixture of the season with a perfect record to face a Bedford Blues side hoping to bounce back from a disappointing late defeat last weekend at the hands of Cross Keys.
Both teams had made a several changes to the XV’s that started Saturday previous with the Knights welcoming Sam Wilson and Riccardo Brugnara in to the match day twenty-two for the first time this season.
A frantic first half effort all but secured victory for the Knights but credit must go to the Blues who stuck to their task and were far more competitive in the second forty.
The visitors made a quick start and quickly had the hosts under pressure following the kick off, a knock on in their own 22m by the Knights gifted possession to the Blues and Jake Sharp put a well-weighted cross field kick up in the direction of winger Darrell Dyer who collected and only good defensive work by Paul Jarvis preventing an early score.
Jarvis was significantly involved shortly after but this time in attack. After good work by the Knights pack the Blues were pinged for entering a ruck from the side, Jamie Lennard went to touch and Doncaster had good field position from which to attack. With close coverage Jarvis found himself in possession and did exceptionally well to shrug his way out of a couple of tackles touching down for his fourth try in two games. Lennard slotted the extras and the Knights were up and running.
It wasn’t long before the Knights were over again, having fought their way in to the Bedford half, with notable carries from Phil Eggleshaw, Colin Quigley and Matt Challinor they were awarded penalty advantage. A stop start phase of play eventually saw the ball spun wide, Andy Bulumakau carried forward before releasing loanee Sam Wilson who put his foot down and raced over. No extras from Lennard this time as the Knight took at 12-0 lead.
The early drama continued, Bedford got their first points on the board as the Knights knocked on deep in their own 22m and then recovered the ball from an offside position. Fly Half Jake Sharp comfortably opened his side’s account then shortly after injuries meant both side’s needed to readjust. Firstly tight head James Currie was forced from the field and replaced by Phil Boulton. Then the Knights lost Andy Bulumakau, Paul Roberts came on in his place seeing Lennard drop to full back, Jarvis move in to the centres and Roberts stepping in at ten.
The alteration did little to stem the flow of Knights attacks and they soon added to their total when Tom Davies spotted a gap at the breakdown. The prop forward charged before finding Latu Makaafi in support, Makaafi continued the break and handed on to Tomasi Palu who touched down under the sticks. Lennard made it a seven point score with successful conversion and things were looking a little one sided with just over 25 minutes played.
A swift response ensured that Bedford remained in touching distance when full back Jim Wigglesworth entered the line at pace and was able to glide in untouched. Sharp converted ,19-10 with ten minutes to play in the first half.
Unfortunately for the visitors the Knights really went up a gear as the interval approached and registered a further two scores which, ultimately but the contest beyond doubt. Firstly a solid rolling maul saw skipper Michael Hills crash over to secure a four-try bonus point before a nice set move, again at the line out, freed up space for the backline and Bevon Armitage barreled over his opposite man to reach out and touchdown.
Half time score Knights 31 Bedford 10.
Twenty-one points in arrears many would forgive the Blues for throwing the towel in but, to their testament, they stuck to their guns and in what was a pretty scrappy, disjointed second half match the Knights in all departments.
Both sides made a number of replacements in the early exchanges of the second period and whilst the Knights dominated possession and territory, time and time again errors or indecision killed any attacking promise. On 53 minutes, after a spell in the Donny 22m the Blues were awarded a penalty. Sharp elected to go to the corner and this time the visitors capitalized on a solid driving maul and skipper Paul Tupai touched down. Sharp saw his conversion bounce back off the posts, 31-15.
There was very little to report on for the duration of the second half, the Knights had a comfortable lead but were not executing attacks with the precision that the Castle Park faithful has become accustom this season. Bedford created more than their fair share of opportunities but seemed to be suffering from the same lack of sharpness. One opportunity did fall for the Blues when Pat Tapley was released from his wing with a clear run to the line but play was recalled for a forward pass.
A yellow card for prop forward Camilo Parilli-Ocampo for a high tackle on substitute scrum-half George Tresidder was shortly followed by a sixth Knights try. Having lost possession at a line out deep in Bedford territory the Knights were able to recover the ball in field and quickly spin it wide. Making his first Castle Park appearance of the season Riccardo Brugnara collected and the prop forward showed a turn of pace to get over the line for a try.
Consolation came late of for Bedford and they finished on a high. Pressure in the Knights final third resulted in Tyson Lewis being sin binned for a deliberate knock on. They elected to scrum the penalty from the following Tapley would not be denied as he took advantage of the extra man to cross the whitewash.
Full time followed shortly after and whilst it may not have been the most clinical Knights display of the season the team comfortably overcame a Championship opponent and will return to the league on the back of three victories, sitting pretty at the top of Pool 4.
15) Paul Jarvis, 14) Sam Wilson, 13) Andy Bulumakau (Paul Roberts 22’), 12) Bevon Armitage, 11)Tyson Lewis, 10) Jamie Lennard, 9) Tomasi Palu (George Tresidder 57’), 1) Tom Davies (Riccardo Brugnara 62’), 2) Jack Bergmanas (Ben Hunter 53’), 3) Colin Quigley (Riccardo Brugnara 71’), 4) Matt Challinor, 5) Jon Phelan (Tyler Hotson 53’), 6) Latu Makaafi (Will Foden 67’), 7) Michael Hills ©, 8) Phil Eggleshaw
Replacements; 16) Richard List, 17) Ben Hunter,18) Ricardo Brugara, 19) Tyler Hotson, 20) Will Foden, 21) George Tressider 22) Paul Roberts
Tries; Jarvis 6’, Wilson 15’, Palu 26’, Hills 33’, Armitage 38’, Brugnara 71’
Conv; Lennard 6’, 26’ 38’
Bedford Blues XV
15) Jim Wigglesworth, 14) Pat Tapley, 13) Michael Le Bourgeois, 12) Ollie Dodge, 11) Darrell Dyer (Steffan Jones 67’), 10) Jake Sharp, 9) Darryl Veenendaal (Nick Fenton-Wells 51’), 1) Camilo Parilli-Ocampo, 2) Jared Saunders (TJ Harris 61’), 3) James Currie (Phil Boulton 16’), 4) Mike Howard (Harry Wells 61’), 5) Eoin Sheriff, 6) Paul Tupai (c), 7) Justin Blanchet, 8) Joe Vandermolen
Replacements: 16) TJ Harris, 17) Phil Boulton, 18) Harry Wells, 19) Nick Fenton-Wells, 20) Peter White, 21) Steffan Jones, 22) Viliami Hakalo.
Tries; Wigglesworth 29’, Tupai 52’, Tapley 77’
Conv; Sharp 29’
Pens; Sharp 17’
Referee: John Meredith