Knights 32-26 Nottingham.
A much improved second half showing saw the Knights rally to collect a bonus point win in a game they were trailing by ten points with an hour played.
Fast starts are becoming something of a feature in the Knights early season and it was the case again against Nottingham as Donny opened their account for the day after just two minutes.
Hooker David Nelson produced a fine surge forward and, following a couple of attacking phases, the visiting defence jumped offside to give Declan Cusack a relatively simple shot at goal.
The lead was cancelled moments later as, following a succession of collapsed scrums, referee John Meredith awarded Nottingham a penalty which was converted by Tiff Eden. The home lead was reinstated shortly after though with Cusack’s second successful nudge of the afternoon following a ruck infringement from a Morgan Eames carry.
From this moment on the Knights were the masters of their own downfall and on three occasions in the first half lineout mistakes were punished by Green and White tries; leaving the Knights in an unfavorable position at the break.
The first came on the quarter hour mark, Lock Eames went up but Nelson’s throw skimmed his finger tips before passing his reach. Nottingham flanker Jordan Coghlan was there to collect and charged home untouched.
Donny responded swiftly and produced some easy-on-the-eye rugby in the build up to their first score of the game.
Jason Hill reacted quickest when Notts failed to secure possession at the back of the ruck and collected before handing on to Michael Hills.
The skipper produced a mazy run before being hauled down but quickly recycled ball created space for Will Owen to carry into the visiting 22m. The Knights then rattled through the phases before Hills created another opening to offload to Nelson who demonstrated some impressive basketball skills to put Michael Heaney in possession and the scrum half finished smartly. Cusack’s conversion made it 13-8 in the Knights favour.
The next two Nottingham scores would have been alarmingly similar for the Knights coaching staff as a mix of poor communication and haphazard defence cost them twelve points in the space of five minutes.
Firstly, tight head Will Stuart profited and the Green and Whites went blind having won possession at a Knights midfield line out. The prop was able to ghost is way through the Donny line and, despite of Eames’ best effort, sprint home to score.
Shortly after loose head Tom West dotted down from close range after a third lineout malfunction with Eden’s conversion making the score 13-20. In the final play of the first half the Knights forced a penalty but from long range Cusack wasn’t able to convert.
The Knights needed a strong start to the second half but an early penalty against the scrum, an area of contention all game, saw Eden extend his side’s lead to ten points.
Donny needed to turn the tide and found inspiration from the bench. The coaching staff made a raft of changes on the hour mark and it had an almost immediate effect. Replacement fly half Simon Humberstone got good range on a midfield penalty and from the resulting lineout Ben Hunter barreled over with one of his first touches in the game.
Only five minutes later and substitute, Tom James, added his name to the score sheet. The scrum half produced a beautiful show and go to open up a gap at a ruck and sprint home from about 30 metres out. Humberstone converted and it was a one-point game.
With momentum now clearly running the Knights way, Nottingham could easily have crumbled but they did not and protected their lead with valor and had it not been for a piece of individual brilliance from Andy Bulumakau may well have returned to Lady Bay with the win.
From an almost standing start the centre cut back inside on the Nottingham 10m line and set off on a breath taking carry. Leaving five defenders is his wake, Andy sprinted over the line, however, a sensational cover tackle from former Knight Sean Scanlon almost prevented a score but not quite as momentum was just enough to see the ball grounded. Humberstone converted and shortly after referee John Meredith brought the game to a close.
Starting XV; 15) Charlie Foley, 14) Junior Bulumakau, 13) Andy Bulumakau, 12) Will Owen, 11) Tyson Lewis, 10) Declan Cusack (Simon Humberstone 54’), 9) Michael Heaney (Tom James 59’), 1) Richard List (Jack Bergmanas 74’), 2) David Nelson (Ben Hunter 54’), 3) Colin Quigley (Joseph Sproston 57’), 4) Morgan Eames (Matt Challinor 55’), 5) Tom Hicks, 6) Alex Shaw, 7) Michael Hills ©, 8) Aaron Carpenter (Jason Hill 17’)
Replacements; 16) Ben Hunter, 17) Jack Bergmanas, 18) Joseph Sproston , 19) Matt Challinor, 20) Jason Hill, 21) Tom James, 22) Simon Humberstone
Tries; Heaney 20’, Hunter 60’, James 66’, Andy Bulumakau 74’
Conv; Cusack 21’, Humberstone 66’, 74’
Pens; Cusack 2’, 11’
Nottingham; 15) Sean Scanlon (Will Millett 77’), 14) Billy Robinson, 13) Oli Evans, 12) Gearoid Lyons, 11) Joe Cobden, 10) Tiff Eden, 9) Murray McConnell, 1) Tom West (Aniseko Sio 68’), 2) Ben Brownlie (James Penman 68’), 3) Will Stuart (Ben Hooper 55’), 4) Tom Holmes (C), 5) Danny Qualter, 6) Shane Buckley, 7) Jordan Coghlan (Matt Everard 59’), 8) Josh Poullet
Replacements; 16) James Penman, 17) Aniseko Sio, 18) Ben Hooper, 19) Tim Cardall, 20) Matt Everard, 21) Darryl Veenendaal, 22) Will Millett
Tries; Coghlan 15’, Stuart 29’, West 34’
Conv; Eden 34’
Pens; Eden 7’, 46’, 63’
Referee: John Meredith