Rotherham Titans 12-23 Doncaster Knights.
The Knights produced an authoritative performance to overpower Rotherham Titans 12-23 in the third South Yorkshire derby of the season and move themselves back into the Championship’s top four.
Boosted by several returns to fitness following a two-week layoff, and the arrival of new-signing Jack Ram, the Knights were hoping to end a losing run at Clifton Lane that spanned over half a decade. They did so in convincing enough fashion and will probably be disappointed that they were unable to touch down for an all-important bonus point fourth try.
There wasn’t a great deal separating the two sides in the early exchanges as Caolan Ryan and Dougie Flockhart traded penalties without either side really threatening the other’s try line. The Knights certainly seemed to enjoy the better of possession but the Rotherham defence made Donny battle for every inch of territory and much of the play remained in the middle third.
A breakthrough eventually came at the game’s quarter point, having won a penalty in centerfield Dec Cusack found touch deep in Roth territory and after some close range carries space was created. Cusack took the ball at first receiver and, with options outside him, elected to head for the line. The fly-half rode contact to get over in the corner for the game’s opening score; Flockhart’s conversion dropped just short.
The try seemed to be a turning point for the game and the Knights spent the rest of the half firmly on the front foot but the hosts continued to defend with impressive steel. Chances came and the Knights spent what seemed to be an age in Titans territory with precious little to show for it, though this changed in the final ten minutes of the half.
The second try of the game came just after the half hour mark and was the result of a Titans error rather than sustained pressure. A poorly executed lineout was scooped up in midfield by the Donny pack who drove into the heart of the scrambling home defences. Quickly manoeuvred possession saw Michael Hills carry before handing onto Hunter who showed great awareness to draw in defenders before releasing Tyson Lewis down the left flank. With a clear route to the try line Lewis would not be stopped as he sprinted home from just inside half way.
The hosts hit back moments later as Ryan slotted his third penalty of the game and with less than a couple of minutes left in the half the Titans probably felt pleased to be trailing just 13-9. Donny had other ideas, however, and finished with a flurry as Lewis bagged a first half brace. Once again Hills was heavily involved with a deft show of handling as the Skipper reminded the travelling fans just what he adds to the squad. The flanker tipped onto Lewis under heavy pressure and Tyson tip-toed the touchline to race away and score. Flockhart’s successful conversion made the half time score 20-9 in the Knights favour.
The double figure lead was no less than the Knights deserved and they continued to take the game to Roth in the opening stages of the second half. Further opportunities came for the Knights but a combination of poor execution and the unrelenting home defence meant no further scores.
As the game entered it’s final quarter the hosts began to show more attacking intent and reduced their arrears on 58 minutes with a fourth penalty from the boot of Ryan. However, it was cancelled out moments later as Flockhart added to his tally for the day with a three-pointer.
The Titans produced more pressure in the final ten minutes and were aided when Latu Makaafi was yellow carded for an alleged swinging arm shortly after he entered the game from the subs bench. The Knights showed the same resolve that the home defence had demonstrated for much of the day and were able to close the game out without conceding to wrap up a league double over the Old Enemy.
The Knights next challenge is Richmond at Castle Park on New Year’s Eve knowing a win would mean ending the year firmly in the division’s top four.
Titans XV: 15 Caolan Ryan, 14 Sam Wilson, 13 Will Thomas, 12 Joe Barker (Andy Humberstone 70’), 11 Matt Walsh, 10 Brett Connon, 9 George Tresidder, 1 Tom Williams (Joe Hutchinson 51’), 2 Santi Socino (Joe Graham 61’), 3 Joe Rees (Danny Herriott 51’), 4 Miles Normandale (Toby Salmon 54’), 5 Tom Hicks, 6 Oli Curry (James Tyas 61’), 7 Tom Calladine (Capt.), 8 Dan Grange.
Replacements: 16 Joe Graham, 17 Joe Hutchinson, 18 Danny Herriott, 19 Toby Salmon, 20 James Tyas, 21 Andy Humberstone, 22 Jonny Sykes
Pens; Ryan 4’, 13’, 38’, 58’
Knights XV 15) Paul Jarvis, 14) Sean Scanlon, 13) Dougie Flockhart, 12) Mat Clark, 11) Tyson Lewis, 10) Dec Cusack, 9) Michael Heaney, 1) Robin Hislop (Rich List 70’), 2) Ben Hunter, 3) WillGriff John (Colin Quigley 40’), 4) Matt Challinor (Huw Taylor 78’), 5) Glen Young, 6) Jack Ram, 7) Michael Hills © (Latu Makaafi 70’), 8) Jarad Williams.
Replacements; 16) Richard List, 17) Jack Bergmanas, 18) Colin Quigley, 19) Huw Taylor, 20) Latu Makaafi, 21) Sam Edgerley, 22) Simon Humberstone.
Tries; Cusack 19’, Lewis 33’ & 40’
Conv; Flockhart 40’
Pens; Flockhart 9’, 61’