The Knights held out for an exceptional 31-26 victory over rivals Yorkshire Carnegie as both sides contributed to a thrilling derby day clash at Castle Park.
It was an exhilarating tie between second and third place which went write down to the wire, the last fifteen minutes were filled with drama; sin-bins, tries - both scored and disallowed!
It looked like game over when Dougie Flockhart kicked a 68th minute penalty after the Knights scored a third try through Andy Bulumakau but the fourteen-point cushion reenergised the Leeds side who scored nine unanswered points to set up an incredibly nervy finish.
The Knights had to see out the final six minutes with thirteen men after Matt Challinor and Simon Humberstone were both shown yellow cards but despite the two-man deficit the Knights gave a shining example of game management and composure to secure the win.
Carnegie started the brighter of the two teams, working their way down the field and capitalising on some casual Donny handling to eventually earn themselves a line-out five metres from the Knights try line. The Yorkshire line out has been impressive all season long and showed its power again as a good rumble allowed the Harlequins bound Lewis Boyce to drive over from the back. 7-0
The Knights were quick to respond and played the better first half rugby from this point forward. Quick hands saw the ball whipped out wide to Andy Bulumakau who drew in his man before offloading to Tyson Lewis who looked to have expertly collected and touched down for a try. Unfortunately the replay showed the pass to Tyson was to be have been forward and a scrum was awarded to the visitors.
The pressure from the Knights continued and with Carnegie penned deep in their own half the attacking opportunities began to flow.
A yellow card for a deliberate knock on to Carnegie fly-half Joe Ford stretched the visitors further. Shortly after good line out ball was worked quickly to the backs with Simon Humberstone producing a fine show and go to ghost through the visitors defence and score under the posts - 7-7.
The Knights continued to press the Carnegie defence and were unfortunate to not breakthrough again in the first half, wingers Lewis and Flockhart caused no end of problems for the Carnegie backline with some powerful running but credit must go to Carnegie who defended masterfully.
Familiar front row trio Colin Quigley, Ben Hunter and Richard List enjoyed a fine afternoon in the tight and held the upper hand at scrum time throughout. A powerful drive just after the half hour mark gave Flockhart the opportunity to move his side into the lead for the first time and he did so with a well struck penalty.
Donny continued to press up until the interval and went very close with moments left in the half after Jack Ram set Michael Heaney in motion with a fine break from a midfield ruck. An accidental offside eventually killed the attack but from the resulting scrum the Knights took another penalty allowing Flockhart to make it 13-7 at the half.
A momentum swing came immediately after the half as Yorkshire shot out of the gates. Only moments after remerging from the changing rooms Carnegie were back ahead, winger Tom Arscott produced an impressive offload under heavy cover to release full back Chris Elder who did something very rarely seen at Castle Park and beat Paul Jarvis for pace to score in the corner. Ford’s conversion taking the score to 13-14.
The lead was short lived as Tyson Lewis demonstrated some fine handling at the restart to win back possession and then force a penalty which Flockhart dispatched to make it 16-14.
Doncaster looked more threatening as the half went on with the backline making inroads with the strong platform the pack were providing but Carnegie maintained a constant presence.
The next score felt like it would be telling and it proved to be the case as the Knights drew blood through Andy Bulumakau. A powerful run from Tyson Lewis put Donny on the front foot and in full flight Bulumakau produced a fine finish to weave through the Carnegie coverage and dive under the posts. Flockhart’s conversion hit the upright. 21-14
It was Bulumakau again just minutes later who added the Knights third try, the centre read play perfectly to intercept a stray Carnegie pass inside the visitors twenty-two and went under the posts, Flockhart this time getting the conversion. 28-14
The Knights were now in full control of the game and with just over ten minutes to go their only looked to be one winner especially after another Flockhart penalty made it 31-14 with time ticking away.
A lapse of concentration allowed Carnegie a route back into the game, the visitors scoring straight from the restart as Matt Smith collected the restart and broke powerfully before offloading to Josh Bainbridge who finished. 31-21
A momentum swing came with the try especially when Matt Challinor was sent to sin-bin for a trip. The Leeds side made the Knights pay immediately as Chris Elder ghosted through some lax tackles to put Carnegie a single try behind.
It was to get even worse for Doncaster who found themselves reduced to thirteen men shortly after. This time Humberstone was the man to go as the Standoff was shown a yellow for a deliberate knock on.
It looked like Carnegie had achieved what had seemed impossible just minutes earlier as Ford exploited the space left in the Knights back line to go over the whitewash completely untouched, fortunately the try was disallowed due to crossing.
With five minutes left on the clock the Knights needed to hold on to possession and agonisingly retained possession with countless pick and go carries through the forwards. Time seemed to stand still at Castle Park as the pack carried with ferocious intensity until eventually Dean Richards called time and Heaney punted to ball to touch for a superb victory.
Watch the extended highlights from the game below.
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 65’), 2. Ben Hunter (Dave Nelson 69’), 3. Colin Quigley (Joe Sproston 66’), 4. Matt Challinor, 5. Glen Young, 6. Jack Ram, 7. Michael Hills ©, 8. Aaron Carpenter (Alex Shaw 56’).
Replacements; 16. Jack Bergmanas, 17. Dave Nelson 18. Joe Sproston, 19. Dave Nolan, 20. Alex Shaw, 21. Sam Edgerley, 22. Dec Cusack.
Tries; Humberstone 16’, Bulumakau 54’, 64’
Conv; Flockhart 16’, 64’
Pens; Flockhart 33’, 39’, 46, 68’
Carnegie XV; 15. Chris Elder, 14. Jonah Holmes, 13. Pete Lucock (Andy Forsyth 47’), 12. Tom Casson, 11. Tom Arscott, 10. Joe Ford, 9. Alex Davies (Max Green 55’), 1. Lewis Boyce (Matt Beesley 64’), 2. Mike Mayhew, 3. Mike Cusack (Sione Faletau 55’), 4. Mike Myerscough, 5. Ben West, 6. Ollie Stedman (Josh Bainbridge 64’), 7. Richard Mayhew, 8. Ryan Burrows (c)
Replacements; 16. Phil Nilsen, 17. Matt Beesley, 18. Sione Faletua, 19. Matt Smith, 20. Josh Bainbridge, 21. Max Green, 22. Andy Forsyth.
Tries; Boyce 8’, Elder 44’, 72’, Bainbridge 70’
Conv; Ford 8’, 44’, 70’
Referee; Dean Richards.
Words by Connor Hickinbottom.