Leinster Rugby A 28-37 Doncaster Knights.
The Knights secured qualification to the British and Irish Cup quarterfinals with a bonus point win over previously undefeated pool leaders Leinster A at Donnybrook.
After trailing 21-8 at half time, the Knights mounted a sensational second half comeback to book their place in the knock out stages with four tries in the game’s second forty and a mightily impressive display.
Few could fault how the Knights started the game as the side looked very bright in the early stages after a booming tackle from debutant Josh Tyrell killed an attack from the hosts shortly after kick off.
Not to be out done Lesley Klim, who really made his present felt in defence in the first half, forced a penalty on the floor which was kicked to touch by Simon Humberstone.
From the corner Donny executed a training ground line out move which resulted in Joe Sproston crashing over down the short side having taken a pass off the top from Alex Shaw.
Humberstone was unsuccessful with the extras but the Knights were up and running.
The lead was ever so shortly lived however as good pressure on a deep restart forced Michael Heaney to kick to touch from which the home pack drove smartly. As they neared to the 22m scrum half Nick McCarthy gathered possession and spun a zippy flat pass to Gavin Mullin who collected to gallop home untouched.
Fly half Ciaran Frawley’s successful conversion put Leinster into the lead but Humberstone put the Knights back on top with an on target penalty just four minutes later
The game’s second quarter was a poor one for the Knights as they conceded two sloppy tries to leave themselves in a tricky situation entering the change of ends.
Seeing he was outnumbered Tyson Lewis elected to go for an intercept and very nearly succeeded but in a jostle for possession the winger lost out and Leinster attacked.
Loose head Ed Byrne charged into the 22m and produced a sublime side step to wrong foot Paul Jarvis and cross under the sticks. Frawley made no mistake with the extras – 14-8.
The hosts crossed again shortly after following good pressure at the set piece.
A well hit cross field kick was almost collected by Jarvis but he could not quite hold it and the ball bounced dead after scraping his finger tips. A scrum penalty was reset from which scrum half Nick McCarthy carried through a gap to score.
The Knights reacted well and found their feet as the game edged towards half time but were met by a solid wall of Leinster defence and could not reduce the deficit before the interval.
Donny continued in the same attacking vein at the start of the second half and the breakthrough came on fifty-minutes.
Having kicked a penalty to the corner possession was moved infield and Lesley Klim hit a line to get within inches. On the next phase it looked as if Matt Challinor had got over the line but no try was given. Instead a penalty went the Knights way and lock Mick Kearney was shown a yellow card for a goal line infringement.
The penalty was tapped as the forwards set up a centerfield maul from five metres out before spinning possession wide. A pass intended to Tyson Lewis on the left hand side was knocked down by full back Bary Daly which resulted in a penalty try and a yellow card for Daly.
The seven points brought the Knights within a score and presented them with a fantastic opportunity with a two-man advantage over the hosts. If there was to be a comeback the following ten-minute period would surely be crucial.
Leinster showed impressive spirit whilst down to thirteen and actually put the Knights under some serious pressure shortly after the penalty try.
A midfield penalty was struck with great distance into the Knights 22m by Frawley but an overthrow at the line out was collected by Ben Hunter and what followed was a piece of individual brilliance.
Klim looked to carry out of the Knights 22m but was caught so offloaded to Jarvis who looked to have no room on the outside so cut back in. Weaving and stepping his way through traffic the full back broke free before evading a further three defenders to score from all of 80m.
Humberstone couldn’t convert but the Knights had the lead and would not left it go this time.
Leinster were restored to a full compliment with just over ten minutes to play with the Knights lead still just a fragile one point.
Good input from the bench saw the Knights carry the fight in the late stages with hooker Curtis Langdon producing a fine midfield carry to put the side on the front foot. Jarvis continued the move before Tom James sent Junior Bulumakau on his way down the short side. The winger released Adam Batt down the right flank and the replacement back row showed an impressive turn of pace to carry to within 5m of the Leinster line. The covering defence eventually hauled Batt down but Bulumakau was in support to collect an offload and score the all important fourth try.
Humberstone showed a cool head to convert from out wide and then added a penalty moments later after Frawley attempted to outsprint Tom James and was subsequently caught without support on the floor; 21-30.
The game was won on 78 minutes as, after concerted pressure in their own goal area, Leinster were forced to kick.
McCarthy’s attempt was collected by Mat Clark in the home 22m who carried to within 5m and on the next phase Matt Challinor flew in at first receiver to smash home.
Leinster got some consolation in the game’s final play as replacement hooker Sean McNulty touched down at the back of a driving line out and Charlie Rock’s conversion made the final score 28-37.
A resounding victory for the Knights who will know if they can replicate their second half form in future fixtures that 2018 could be a successful year.
Leinster ‘A’15. Barry Daly, 14. Jack Kelly, 13. Gavin Mullin (’), 12. Noel Reid, 11. Tommy O’Brien, 10. Ciarán Frawley (Conor O’Brien 72’), 9. Nick McCarthy (Charlie Rock 65’), 1. Ed Byrne © (Óisín Heffernan 78’), 2 Ronan Kelleher (Sean McNulty 66’), 3. Michael Bent, 4. Mick Kearney, 5. Ian Nagle, 6. Josh Murphy, 7. Max Kearney (Oisin Dowling 52’), 8. Peadar Timmins
Replacements; 16. Sean McNulty, 17. Jack Aungier, 18. Óisín Heffernan, 19. Óisín Dowling, 20. Conor O’Brien, 21. Harry Byrne, 22. Charlie Rock
Tries; Mullin 8’, Bryne 15’, McCarthy 25’, McNulty 80’
Conv; Frawley 8’, 15’, 25’, Rock 80’
Knights XV: 15) Paul Jarvis, 14) Junior Bulumakau, 13) Lesley Klim, 12) Mat Clark, 11) Tyson Lewis, 10) Simon Humberstone (Declan Cusack 72’), 9) Michael Heaney (Ton James 64’), 1) Richard List (Jack Bergmanas 52’), 2) Ben Hunter (Curtis Langdon 60’), 3) Joe Sproston (Ian Williams 64’), 4) Matt Challinor ©, 5) Tom Hicks, 6) Josh Tyrell (Jason Hill 60’), 7) Will Owen, 8) Alex Shaw (Adam Batt 64’).
Replacements; 16) Curtis Langdon, 17) Jack Bergmanas, 18) Ian Williams, 19) Adam Batt, 20) Jason Hill, 21) Tom James, 22) Declan Cusack.
Tries; Sproston 8’, Penalty 52’, Jarvis 59’, Bulumakau 69, Challinor 78’
Conv; Humberstone 72’, Cusack 78’
Pens; Humberstone 12’, 69’
Referee: Mike English
Image courtesy of Sportsfile