The Knights secured their place in the play-offs for the second year running with a 24-20 victory over Jersey Reds.
Both sides went into the fixture knowing that victory was crucial in their bid for the play-offs, Jersey were just two points behind the Knights at kick off and have been in scintillating form in 2017 but Doncaster proved to be too much to handle.
Tries from Tyson Lewis and Dougie Flockhart, as well as a 14 points from Dougie's boot, was enough to secure the points for the Knights. The celebrations continued after the final whistle as news of a last-gasp win for Richmond over Cornish Pirates guaranteed the Knights a place in the top four.
The Knights put points on the board on the very first play of the game, Glen Young expertly collected Simon Humberstone’s kick off and was fouled on ground allowing Flockhart to convert, 3-0.
The lead didn’t last long, Jersey were immediately awarded a penalty of their own just inside the Doncaster half which Callum Sheedy slotted through the posts, 3-3.
The Knights, undeterred by Jersey’s rebuttal hit straight back. Powerful carries from Matt Challinor and Richard List put the Knights in a dangerous position which almost gave Humberstone the room to exploit, the fly-half was unable to score but gave Flockhart the opportunity to put the Knights back in the lead, 6-3.
Flockhart then became a points-saver rather than scorer, Jersey pressed the Knights deep into their own twenty-two trying to hit Donny out wide, the Reds eventually found a gap but spurned a two on one attack in the corner with Flockhart intercepting the final pass.
Donny quickly turned defence into attack, with Jersey reeling the ball was quickly worked out to the far wing where Andy Bulumakau and Lewis found just a single defender in front of them, Bulumakau stalled his pass allowing Lewis to sprint in from halfway, Flockhart added the extras. 13-3
Jersey have been in outstanding to date and showed why they have been pushing for the play-offs, responding almost instantly with a Sheedy penalty to put them within a try of the Knights, 13-6.
The threat from Jersey was increasing and it didn’t take much longer before the Reds were in for their first try. It was the Reds forwards that brought the game level their powerful scrum earning the visitors a penalty try and sending List to the sin-bin for ten minutes, 13-13.
Jersey looked to have the momentum on their side but with the home field advantage the Knights can never be ignored, another penalty was awarded to the Knights giving Flockhart the chance to put Donny back into the lead, 16-13.
It was a blistering end to the first half with all the pressure coming from the Knights. Lloyd Hayes was proving to be too much for the Jersey backline breaking the line with some destructive running but the Knights were unable to make that final five metres.
The Islanders had the chance to level the scores going into half-time after the Knights were penalised in the scrum. Sheedy, for once, put his penalty off the mark from just inside half-way.
The second-half continued just as frantic as the first half had ended. Michael Heaney sniped from the back of a ruck finding an ample amount of room in front of him, it was so close being the perfect start but Heaney couldn’t find Humberstone inside him and the attack broke down.
The Knights, whilst dominant at times were still allowing Jersey chances to score, Sheedy once more had the opportunity to put Jersey level but once more put a relatively easy kick wide of the posts.
With Sheedy and the Reds kicking themselves for missed opportunities the Knights ruthlessly went after the visitor’s defence, a powerful run from Colin Quigley saw the Knights go close, the ball was then worked phase after phase towards the line before being worked out wide where Flockhart went down in the corner, Dougie’s conversion was wide. 21-13.
The Knights were unfortunate to not have another try shortly afterwards. Alex Shaw stole the ball at the back of a line-out inside the Jersey twenty-two and broke forward, posession was worked inside then quickly back out with Lewis looking to have scored in the corner, after some deliberating the referee revoked the try concluding that Lewis and Bulumakau had crossed.
Donny knew that all five points were needed to edge them closer to the play-offs and set about an all-out attack on the Jersey defence, each play got the Knights closer to the line but the Jersey defence remained resolute all the way up to the end, the Knights had to settle for a penalty in front of the sticks which Flockhart put over, 24-13.
Donny were now firmly in the driving seat and found themselves desperately trying to add another try, Dave Nelson went close with an outstanding run but the play was turned over and it was now Jersey on the attack, the Channel Islanders marched up-field knowing that only a win would see them advance to the play-offs.
With the game into the final minute Jersey continued to press and found themselves inside the Knights twenty-two, Hayes looked to have wrapped up the man on the floor and won the ball but the referee decided otherwise giving the Reds a penalty, former Knights Jake Armstrong took it quickly and charged over on his own, 24-20.
It proved to be too late for the Reds, the Knights completely deserving of the victory. They now have a week to prepare for the final game of the season against London Irish which will determine if Donny finish third of fourth in the league.
Knights XV; 15. Paul Jarvis, 14. Dougie Flockhart, 13. Andy Bulumakau, 12. Lloyd Hayes, 11. Tyson Lewis, 10. Simon Humberstone, 9. Michael Heaney, 1. Rich List (Jack Bergmanas 55’), 2. Ben Hunter (Dave Nelson 66’), 3. Colin Quigley (Joe Sproston 60’), 4. Matt Challinor (Jarad Williams 60’), 5. Glen Young, 6. Jack Ram (Sam Edgerley 76’), 7. Michael Hills © (Aaron Carpenter 66’), 8 Alex Shaw.
Replacements; 16. Jack Bergmanas, 17. Dave Nelson 18. Joe Sproston, 19. Jarad Williams, 20. Aaron Carpenter, 21. Sam Edgerley, 22. Dec Cusack.
Tries; Lewis 11’, Flockhart 55’
Conv; Flockhart 11’
Pens; Flockhart 1’, 6’, 29’, 71’
Jersey; 15) Jack Cuthbert, 14) George Watkins, 13) Jordan Davies, 12) Kuki Ma'afu, 11) Nick Scott, 10) Callum Sheedy (Brendan Cope 50’), 9) Kieran Hardy (Joel Dudley 68’), 1) Jake Woolmore (Nick Selway 55’), 2) Joe Buckle (Sean McCarthy 55’), 3) Simon Kerrod (Jake Armstrong 59’), 4) Pierce Phillips, 5) Dave McKern (Uili Kolo'ofa'I 46’), 6) James Freeman (capt) (Max Argyle 62’), 7) Gary Graham Nick Haining
Replacements; 16) Nick Selway, 17) Sean McCarthy, 18) Jake Armstrong, 19) Uili Kolo'ofa'i, 20) Max Argyle, 21) Joel Dudley, 21) Brendan Cope.
Tries; Penalty 20’, Armstrong 80’
Conv; Sheedy 21’, Cope 80’
Pens; Sheedy 2’, 17’
Written by Connor Hickinbottom.
Image; John Ashton.