Doncaster Knights 26-21 Nottingham.
The Knights put in a valiant dogged performance against a tough Nottingham side to keep their home record intact.
In a game rife with ill-discipline both teams will have likely walked away from Castle Park thinking they could have done better.
Doncaster were, in the end, able to pull it together and only suffered one yellow card, given to Jarad Williams with just five minutes of the game remaining, to Nottingham’s three with Calum Hall, Thomas West and Tobias Freeman all spending time in the sin bin.
The Knights struggled getting into the game during the first half going behind after just six minutes; Paul Jarvis lost the ball on the ground and Nottingham’s scrum-half Murray McConnell was the first to capitalise, running the ball over half the pitch to get the first try of the game, 5-0.
The Green and White’s struck again five minutes later, replacement fly-half William Millet got the ball with penalty advantage after a good maul from the Notts pack and executed a perfect cross-field kick to winger Callum Hall who produced an impressive aerial catch for Nottingham’s second of the game, 12-0.
Donny hit back quickly. The Knights forwards the dominant maul this time, drawing in defenders before the ball was moved out to the backs with Mat Clark throwing a pass out wide to a completely unmarked Tyson Lewis who sauntered over the try-line, 12-5.
The final twenty-five minutes of the first half were a scrappy affair, Doncaster counting themselves lucky to not concede another try after Nottingham centre Oliver Evans charged towards a kick tumbling over the try line.
Two penalties each meant the Knights went in at the half 18-11 down.
The second half was a notable improvement as Doncaster came out all guns blazing. Nottingham were still down to 14 men after West’s yellow card in the first half and Doncaster made them pay, Latu Makaafi the scorer from the back of a maul just two minutes after the interval, 18-16.
The Knights continued their powerful start to the half, despite a few misfires at the line-outs, they kept pushing forward with Andy Bulumakau going close down the blindside after another strong maul.
Nottingham were struggling to contain the Knights who, all of a sudden, were playing with confidence and poise. The pressure told, and whilst camped just in front of the Notts try-line a certain try-scoring opportunity the opened up but the final pass from Cusack was deliberately knocked by winger Hall who got a ten-minute breather for the effort.
With the numerical advantage Cusack slotted a penalty to put the Knights ahead for the first time in the game, 19-18.
Another Nottingham yellow card followed just two minutes later as Tobias Freeman joined Hall in the bin. The Donny pack and WillGriff John immediately punished the indiscipline, crashing over from another well-worked drive to put a bit of breathing space between the two sides.
A cagey last fifteen minutes followed, the Knights were put under pressure as Nottingham blew caution to the wind. There was still enough time for one more yellow card, this time going to substitute Jarad Williams for collapsing a maul adding more pressure to an already struggling defensive line.
It was all too late for a late Nottingham comeback however, they did grab a losing bonus point as Millett slotted an on target penalty as the full time whistle blew.
The Knights can take positives from their second half performance but they will need to improve their game going into next week, a second derby clash against Rotherham Titans in the British and Irish Cup.
Knights; 15. Paul Jarvis, 14. Andy Bulumakau, 13. David Clark, 12. Richard Hayes, 11. Tyson Lewis, 10. Declan Cusack, 9. Michael Heaney, 1. Richard List (Robin Hislop 56’), 2. Harry Allen (Ben Hunter 61’), 3. WillGriff John (Joe Sproston 72’), 4. Joseph Maksymiw, 5. Glen Young, 6. Latu Makaafi (Jarad Williams 66’), 7. Beau Robinson, 8. Alex Shaw
Replacements; 16. Robin Hislop, 17. Ben Hunter, 18. Joe Sproston, 19. Jarad Williams, 20. Dougie Flockhart, 21. Simon Humberstone, 22. Sam Edgerley
Tries; Tyson Lewis 16’, Latu Makaafi 43’, WillGriff John 65’
Conversions; Declan Cusack 65’
Penalties; Declan Cusack 32’, 37’, 56’
Nottingham; 15. James Stephenson, 14. Samu Yawayawa, 13. Oliver Evans, 12. Viliami Hakalo, 11. Calum Hall, 10. Lawrence Rayner (William Millett 9’), 9. Murray McConnell (Matthew Everard 73’), 1. Thomas West, 2. Jimmy Stevens, 3. Thomas Heard (Derrick Appiah 60’), 4. Tobias Freeman, 5. Benjamin Morris, 6. Robert Langley (Darryl Veenendaal 73’), 7. Jordan Coghlan, 8. Josh Poullett (Tom Holmes 68’)
Replacements; 16. Antonio Harris, 17. Kieran Davies, 18. Derrick Appiah, 19. Tom Holmes, 20. Matthew Everard, 21. Darryl Veenendaal, 22. William Millett
Tries; Murray McConnell 6’, Calum Hall 12’
Conversions; William Millet 12’
Penalties; William Millett 29’, 80’
Words by Connor Hickinbottom.