Bedford Blues 22-40 Doncaster Knights.
The Knights headed to Goldington Road for what was just the second Championship clash of the New Year to face a Bedford Blues side looking for a first win since 2016.
Where the Knights had profited from the deduction of competition points following the London Welsh’s expulsion the Blues lost five points. As a result the two sides went into the clash separated by six places in the table.
Goldington Road has been a happy hunting ground for the Knights in recent seasons and that continued to be the case as the Knights produced an impressive display lead by a scintillating opening seven minutes.
Donny burst out of the traps and had scored the first try of the game with barely a minute on the clock. Full back Paul Jarvis made a smart break which was immediately continued by Mat Clark; picking straight through the ruck. The centre scorched into the Blues half before flinging an almighty pass to his left where Tyson Lewis collected to sprint home from 30 metres. Dougie Flockhart produced a beautiful touchline conversion for a seven-point score.
The early assault continued and the Knights went on to establish a 19 points advantage in under ten minutes.
Paul Jarvis was the next to go close, the full back produced a nice chip after fine handling from Lloyd Hayes and Flockhart. Unfortunately, the bounce of the ball evaded him but it did little to stem the Knights attacking flow. Simon Humberstone carried to the line before hitting Glen Young with a short pass, the lock had the presence of mind to quickly ship it back opening space down the right. Clark carried forward before a wide pass found its way to Michael Hills giving the skipper an easy trot home. Flockhart was unable to convert this time.
The third try came almost immediately after, Glen Young won a penalty on the floor which was put to touch. From the line out the Knights forwards carried with purpose and Matt Challinor got deep into the 22m. Spotting a gap, Jack Ram carried through a hole before demonstrating some neat footwork to get over the line; Dougie converted.
The game did eventually settle and the hosts found their feet in the clash but the Knights continued to look the better of the two sides. Good Bedford chances came to an end through a combination of good defence and handling errors. On the twenty minute mark there was a lengthy break in play as the touch judge changed the batteries in his radio which seemed to stifle the flow of the game a little.
The Blues established some good field position after the Knights conceded back to back penalties but an impressive transition from defence to attack quick saw Donny back up in Blues territory and registering a bonus point try. Having won possession width was put on the ball and several telling carries, notably from Clark and Ram, put the Knights into the home 22m. Several pick and go carries ensued before Richard List barged his way over.
The Blues made an immediate response, after winning back possession, lively scrum half Tom James spotted a gap at the base of a ruck & raced through. Bursting into the Knights 22m he backed his pace to round Tyson Lewis and touch down.
The score against rallied the Knights who produced a truly stunning try in response, one worth checking the highlights for. Front foot ball saw Lloyd Hayes carry forward before handing on to Ben Hunter who showed a lovely pair of clean hands to release Dougie Flockhart. The winger sprinted forward before executing an inch perfect chip inside for Michael Heaney who outstripped the covering defence to dot down. Flockhart converted and at 5-31 you would have forgiven Bedford fans for setting off home.
It was the hosts who had the final say in the opening forty as they ended on a high. An exerted period of pressure in the Donny 22m eventually created a gap which Tom James threaded a lovely grubber kick through. At full tilt winger Dean Adamson was able to touch down and Myles Dorrian converted to make it 31-12 at the break.
In the face of a 19-point deficit and playing up the slope for the second half the Blues could well have rolled over but instead produced a much-improved showing to make a fist of the game and secure a losing bonus point.
After a barrage of early pressure the Blues’ third try eventually came on 58 minutes, a solid scrum in good field position preceded a series of attacking phases which created space out wide for Pat Tapley to collect a wide pace and race over.
With momentum firmly behind them and nothing to lose the Blues threw caution to the wind and registered a bonus point fourth try shortly after. Number eight Jason Hill collected a quickly taken line out and capitalised on some confusion in the Donny midfield to carry deep into the Knights 22m. As the coverage closed in around him Hill chucked a smart wide pass to Adamson who dotted down for a second time meaning that with fifteen minutes to play the lead was cut to nine points.
The Knights needed to hold their nerve and that is exactly what they did through structured defensive play to force three penalties all slotted by Flockhart to make the final score 22-40.
This was arguably the Knights most impressive display of the season, very timely ahead of next weekend’s visit of fellow play-off chasers Ealing Trailfinders.
Blues XV; 15) George Perkins, 14) Pat Tapley , 13) Michael LeBourgeois (c), 12) Ollie Dodge (Jake Sharp 59’), 11) Dean Adamson, 10) Myles Dorrian, 9) Tom James (Jordan Burns 59’), 1) Hayden Thompson-Stringer (Camillo Parilli-Ocampo 59’), 2) Jacob Fields (Dan George 38’), 3) Ben Cooper (Christian Judge 59’), 4) Paul Tupai (Byron Hodge 53’), 5) Will Carrick-Smith, 6) Justin Blanchet (Ben Adams 73’), 7) Josh Buggea, 8) Jason Hill
Replacements; 16) Dan George, 17) Camillo Parilli-Ocampo, 18) Christian Judge, 19) Byron Hodge, 20) Ben Adams, 21) Jordan Burns, 22) Jake Sharp
Tries; James 37’, Adamson 40’, 65’ Tapley 58’
Conv; Dorrian 40’
Knights XV; 15) Paul Jarvis (Sean Scanlon 65’), 14) Dougie Flockhart, 13) Lloyd Hayes, 12) Mat Clark, 11) Tyson Lewis, 10) Simon Humberstone (Dec Cusack 52’), 9) Michael Heaney (Sam Edgerley 71’), 1) Richard List (Jack Bergmanas 65’), 2) Ben Hunter (Harry Allen 58’), 3, WillGriff John (Colin Quigley 75’), 4) Matt Challinor (Dave Nolan 75’), 5) Glen Young ,6) Jack Ram, 7) Michael Hills (C), 8) Jarad Williams
Replacements; 16) Jack Bergmanas, 17) Harry Allen, 18) Colin Quigley, 19) David Nolan, 20) Declan Cusack, 21) Sam Edgerley, 22, Sean Scanlon
Tries; Lewis 2’, Hills 6’, Ram 9’, List 35’, Heaney 39’
Conv; Flockhart 2’, 9’, 39’
Pens; Flockhart 67’, 70’, 80’
Referee; Ian Tempest