Knights 19-17 London Scottish.
A 75th minute penalty from the boot of replacement fly-half Charlie Foley edged the Knights past London Scottish, as the side battled back from a 6-17 second half deficit for a third successive victory.
The visitors had lead since the ten-minute mark in a hard-fought Championship clash but the Knights held their nerve to claim a first home win of 2018 and reestablish themselves in the league’s top four.
In a stop start opening half the Knights had the better of possession but London Scottish seemed to do a little bit more with the limited touches they were permitted.
A mazy carry from full back Craig Holland asked questions of the Knights defence and looked as if it might have produced the game’s first real scoring opportunity. The charge came to nothing, however, a penalty went the visitor’s way which was converted by Jacob Atkins.
The arm wrestle continued after the penalty and whilst smart individual plays created a few half chances, overall the play was pretty contained and interrupted by indiscipline for both parties.
Successive penalties put the Knights in a promising position and, following some good work from Tom James after an attacking line out, Simon Humberstone went in search of Curtis Wilson with a cross-field kick. Former Knight Matty Williams claimed the attempt but play was brough back for a Knights penalty and Humberstone levelled the scores.
As the game entered the second quarter it would be unfair not to pay credit to Scottish who enjoyed arguably their strongest period of the game. Had it not been for some committed defensive play from the Knights the visitors may well have established a sizable lead.
A score did come eventually after possession was spilled with Donny looking to attack from their own territory. At the following ruck Curtis Wilson was penalized and Atkins went to the corner. A well-formed driving line out was initially stopped by the Donny forwards but as the maul began to break up flanker Matt Marley spotted day light and sprinted over for the game’s first score with Atkins converting.
The Knights reacted well and after Lesley Klim drew a foul for a high tackle they went elected for the corner, turning down what looked like a kickable shot at goal for Humberstone.
It seemed as if the decision had paid dividends as the pack rumbled over from the but after a consultation between referee and touch judge the decision was held up in goal. The resulting scrum saw a penalty against the Knights forwards, Scottish cleared and shortly after the half time whistle was blown.
On the balance of play, being behind by just one score didn’t seem like a bad outcome for the Knights and they looked sprightly following the restart.
Scrum half James continued to be threat around the breakdown and good interplay between him and Tyson Lewis almost resulted in an early score. Frantic Scottish defence did conceed a penalty and Humberstone made it 6-10.
Having battled through periods of concerted pressure without conceding during the first half, the Knights let in a second from a relatively innocuous position. Hooker Isaac Miller carried from a centerfield breakdown and out of no where number eight Joe Atkinson hit a stunning line to collect an offload and charge over for a try goaled by Atkins.
At 6-17 the signs looked a tad ominous but instead of panicking Donny produced their best play in the final half an hour to score 13 unanswered points and extend their winning run to three games
The response couldn’t have been better timed as Lewis, who celebrated his new 2-year contract with a sterling second half performance, produced a worldy finish to score moments after the Atkinson try. Having taken possession from Humberstone a good 35 yards out from the visitors line the winger fended Joe Luca-Smith and accelerated for the corner. Williams and Alex Walker sprinted to try force him into touch but Tyson got over for a try confirmed after a quick conversation between the officials. Humberstone couldn’t quite add the extras for out wide, 11-17.
Lewis was hugely influential in the Knights second score which followed just ten minutes later.
A solid midfield scrum provided a platform for the backs to charge and some smart hands between Clark and Humberstone along with a dummy line by Lesley Klim gave Lewis half a yard which he used to push passed centre Ross Neal. The covering defence hauled the winger down about a metre short of the try line but, following a quick pick and go from Wilson, replacement scrum half Michael Heaney hit Michael Hills on a good line for the skipper to touch down. Humberstone’s conversion hit the post and agonizingly bounced back leaving the Knights still trailing by a single point.
The game’s third quarter had certainly belonged to the Knights and the stage seemed set for them to push on and seal the win but the Exiles had other plans.
Following the score, the guests who had lost just once in the five games prior to arriving at Castle Park, subjected the Knights to a barrage of attacking play and only a stunning defensive effort kept them out.
A slick series of hands saw the Scots work their way deep into the Donny 22m before forcing what seemed like endless close range carries. Under the posts and with the try line in touching distance a third Scottish score seemed inevitable but a massive defensive play from hooker David Nelson forced a penalty and cleared the danger.
With the game into it’s final five minutes the Knights forced another penalty, this time in the Scottish half. Trailing by a point but with first choice kicker Humberstone having been replaced a decision needed to be made and Charlie Foley very confidently deicded.
The replacement fly half stepped up and with much assurance nailed the penalty attempt from just inside the half way line to move the Knights into the lead for the very first time.
In the dying stages the visitors tried to force their way downfield but once again the Donny defence came up trumps and once possession had been retained it was controlled until the 80-minute mark and Heaney kicked to touch to end the game.
A gritty win for the Knights who finally find themselves on the right end of a last gasp score and now go into the week looking for fourth consecutive win against Hartpury RFC this weekend at Castle Park.
Starting XV; 15) Paul Jarvis, 14) Curtis Wilson, 13) Lesley Klim, 12) Mat Clark, 11) Tyson Lewis, 10) Simon Humberstone (Charlie Foley 67’), 9) Tom James (Michael Heaney 52’), 1) Richard List (Jack Bergmanas 60’), 2) Ben Hunter (David Nelson 56’), 3) Colin Quigley (Joe Sproston 26’), 4) Matt Challinor (Morgan Eames 56’), 5) Tom Hicks, 6) Jack Ram (Jason Hill 52’), 7) Michael Hills, 8) Josh Tyrell.
Replacements; 16) David Nelson, 17) Jack Bergmanas, 18) Joe Sproston, 19) Morgan Eames, 20) Jason Hill, 21) Michael Heaney, 22) Charlie Foley.
Tries; Lewis 55’, Hills 64’
Pens; Humberstone 23’, 48’, Foley 75’
London Scottish: 15. Craig Holland, 14. Joe Luca Smith, 13. Ross Neal, 12. Fraser Lyle, 11. Matt Williams, 10. Jacob Atkins 9. Alex Walker (Ed Hoadley 66’) 1. Derrick Appiah (Ben Onyeama 74’) 2. Isaac Miller © (Dan George 77’) 3. Ewan McQullin (Phil Cringle 69’) 4. James Tyas 5. Oli Curry 6. Matt Marley (Ed Milne 57’) 7. Chris Walker (Matt Filet 61’) 8. Joe Atkinson;
Replacements: 16. Dan George 17. Ben Onyeama Christie 18. Phil Cringle 19. Ed Milne 20. Matt Eliet 21. Ed Hoadley 22. Connor Hayhow
Tries; Marley 33’, Atkinson 51’
Conv; Atkins 34’, 51’
Pens; Atkins 11’
Referee: John Meredith
Half time draw number: 51556