Doncaster Knights 26-30 Jersey Reds.
Three unanswered tries in the game’s final quarter set up a grandstand finish to the 2018/19 season but the Knights left themselves just too much to do and had to settle for two losing bonus points.
Jersey took an early lead when wing Auguy Slowik scored the first of his three tries, which fly-half Brendan Cope converted from touch, after getting on the end of a grubber kick by full-back Scott Van Breda.
The Knights first half showing was rather inconsistent but they didn’t get much luck either. One of several controversial decisions to go against them came on ten minutes when fly-half Simon Humberstone sent wing Curtis Wilson over after catching a looming kick just outside the 22 only for the try to be disallowed for crossing much to the bemusement of the home fans.
Jersey’s bright start was met by rigid Doncaster defence and the resolve paid dividends on twenty minutes as the Knights got on the scoresheet through Matt Challinor. A smart line out move was followed by some determined carrying before the pack set up a close range maul with the lock fighting his way over. Simon Humberstone added the extras.
Unfortunately, the rest of the half belonged to the visitors as the Reds hit back to lead 15-7 with a Cope penalty and an unconverted try by Kieran Hardy.
The scrum-half raced through a huge gap in midfield after latching on to a dropped pass and then steered past full-back Cowell to score a well-taken try. Donny, fell further behind when Slowik bagged his second of the game, kicking ahead down the left flank before winning the race to the ball to touch down. Cope again added the extras to open up a 15-point lead and half time.
A bright start to the second period was needed for the Knights but it was Jersey who came out of the blocks better and on 52-minutes Slowick gathered a lovely offload before producing an impressive finish, tip-toeing the touchline before dotting down in the corner.
At this point the signs were ominous and it seemed as if it might become a damage-limitation exercise for the Knights but instead they rallied and very nearly pulled off the most remarkable of comebacks.
A flurry of yellow cards opened up the game, at one-point Jersey had three players in the sin bin with Matt Challinor also given a ten-minute spell on the sidelines.
It was Cam Cowell who began the fight back, showing some electric pace to race around the coverage and score having been put in motion by Curtis Wilson.
Lesley Klim made a surging break moments later, the move was continued by Wilson who was tackled high within touching distance of the try line. Play went on for another phase before referee Hamish Smales awarded a penalty try and deficit was down to eight points.
Hopes of a victory became very real almost immediately after when Lloyd Hayes collected a huge, wide pass before breaking out of the twenty-two. Drawing in defenders, the centre managed to get an offload away to Tom James and the scrum half raced home.
It looked as if the Knights has nicked it right at the death and Cowell & Klim attacked from a deep scrum but play was brought back on the intervention of a touch judge who had spotted an infringement in the ruck which resulted in a penalty which Cope converted.
Doncaster Knights Cameron Cowell; Andy Bulumakau (Charlie Foley 56), Lesley Klim, Lloyd Hayes, Curtis Wilson; Simon Humberstone, Michael Heaney (Tom James 51); Richard List (Jack Bergmanas 51), Ben Hunter (Curtis Langdon 61), Joe Sproston (Colin Quigley 51), Matt Challinor (capt) (YC 60), Tom Hicks (Nick Civetta h-t), Jason Hill (Adam Batt h-t), Alex Shaw, Josh Tyrell.
Tries: Challinor 20, Cowell 69, Penalty Try 72, James 73 Conversions: Humberstone 20, 73
Jersey Reds; Scott Van Breda (co-capt); Tom Pincus (Jack Macfarlane 66), James Newey (Mark Best 67), George Eastwell (YC 72), Auguy Slowik (YC 57); Brendan Cope, Kieran Hardy; Jake Woolmore (co-capt) (Roy Godfrey 66), Jared Saunders (YC 65, Josh Hodson 75), Jake Armstrong (Leeroy Atalifo 66), Jerry Sexton, Uili Kolo'ofa'i (Tom Quarrie 51), Rory Bartle (YC 60), Jake Upfield, Matt Rogerson.
Tries: Slowik 9, 29, 50, Hardy 26 Conversions: Cope 9, 29 Penalties: Cope 23, 80
Referee: Hamish Smales
Winning half time draw number - 56037