Dean Ryan’s Worcester Warriors ended the Knights unbeaten record at Castle Park with a commanding 32-16 victory.
Knights 16 Warriors 32
Having conceded twice in the very early stages of the game the Knights rallied and gave the league favourites a real challenge but were unable to overcome the solid Warriors outfit.
The Knights put themselves under the cosh from the very beginning when they were unable to effectively deal with an Ignacio Mieres kick off. The ball was spilt forward and the Knights pack struggled at the first scrum against the Worcester pack, after a reset second attempt referee Tom Foley awarded a penalty to the visitors and Mieres had a chance to open the scoring. The Argentinian international was off the mark with his first kick at goal, let off.
Unfortunately the Knights did not head the warning and Warriors were immediately back on the attack. Having driven powerfully through the forwards the visiting backline found themselves in plenty of space. Full back Ben Howard carried powerfully and was able offload out of the tackle, in support was loose head Ryan Bower who produced a finish any winger would have been proud of.
Mieres proved that his first miss was just a blip and converted the extra points from the touchline.
A big response was needed from the home side who had not shown any of the form from the previous two Championship victories in the early exchanges, but it was the Warriors who reacted the better. From a Jamie Lennard restart the Worcester were allowed to immediately break down the left wing with plenty of support. Full back Paul Jarvis found himself with several players to try and stop and winger Sam Smith took advantage of the overlap to race away and score.
Two tries down and with only quarter of an hour played it seemed as if the Knights may be in for a long afternoon but this was not to be the case and for the rest of the game Griff’s charges matched the Warriors in every department. Donny’s first spell of possession followed the second try and Knights made inroads into the Worcester half, the forwards looked dynamic and offloaded cleverly out of contact. Fearsome defence from the West Midlanders met every carry by the Knights but this would be to their detriment as over eagerness from the Worcester backline gave the Knights a penalty. Dougie Flockhart continued his fine form with the boot to get the Knights off the mark.
Having worked so hard to register their first points it was frustrating to see them nullified so quickly afterwards. Once again the Knights pack were put under pressure at the restart, this time winger Tom Biggs was able to get under the Mieres restart and win possession for his side. The Warriors quickly attacked and the Knights infringed at the ruck for Mieres to reestablish a 12-point advantage, 3-15.
The latter stages of the first half belonged to the Knights who threaded together several phases of powerful attacks. Solid carries from Richard List, Alex Shaw Michael Hills made steady progress for the Knights but the unrelenting Worcester defence made them work for every inch. Having drawn in a number of Warriors defender the Knights backline were finally permitted some space and a nice starter move gave Tyson Lewis an opportunity to stretch his legs. The winger carried well and from the following phase Worcester were penalized for offside. Flockhart doubled his tally for the afternoon and the Knights went into the break trailing by 6 points to 15.
The Knights had fought back from a losing position versus Jersey one week ago but even the most optimistic of Doncaster fans knew the Knights were very much up against it against this classy Worcester outfit. The early stages of the second period saw the visitors control much of the possession but the Knights defence rose to the task. Having absorbed a number of Worcester attacked the hosts were able to win possession but unfortunately a knock on saw a scrum deep in their own half. After the opening stages the Knights forwards had enjoyed, at least, parity at scrum time but a penalty was given against them, to the bemusement of the home fans as both front rows popped up. Mieres, following a lengthy routine, slotted the three points.
Griff’s charges reacted well and a clever chip ahead by Jamie Lennard, with penalty advantage, was almost collected by Hills but the bounce of the ball evaded the Knights on field skipper. Referee Foley brought play back for the original offence and Flockhart was once again on the money.
Restarts had been a facet of the game that the home side struggled with all afternoon and it was an error at the restart that saw the game put firmly game beyond them. The Meires kick was allowed to bounce and the ball found it’s way to replacement winger Max Stelling, the youngster put his foot down and raced away untouched. Meires ensured that the error was fully capitalized upon as he converted successfully and the Knights trailed 9-25.
Despite the scoreline Donny refused to roll over and they responded very well through the pack. Having won a penalty Lennard went to the corner and a solid line out provided the platform for a well organized driving maul. The Knights rode the initial hit to rumble on towards the Warriors try line, the visitors did manage to stop the drive inches short of the line but illegally so and a penalty try was awarded. Referee Foley sent replacement scrum half Jonny Arr to the sin bin for his part in the play and Dougie converted to give the home fans a glimmer of hope. 16-25.
Against 14 men there was a hope that the Knights could rally and get themselves into a position to at least pick up a losing bonus point but the Warriors showed why they are one of the favourite for an immediate return to the Premiership with an immediate response. Donny were pinged at the ruck and the ball was put to the corner, this time it was the Warriors who produce an commanding drive to eventually get over the Knights line. There was a long discussion between referee and touch judge but eventually it was decided that beneath the pile of bodies flanker Sam Betty had scored. The conversion was successful.
The Knights continued to fight up until the final whistle and replacement scrum half Bruno Bravo produced a couple of dangerous attacks but they were unable to add to their total. The final whistle blew and Worcester recorded a five-point victory. For the vast majority of the game the Knights matched their Worcester counterparts but were ultimately punished for a slow start by a very clinical outfit.
Paul Jarvis, Dougie Flockhart, Mat Clark, Bevon Armitage, Tyson Lewis, Jamie Lennard, Tomasi Palu, Richard List, Ben Hunter, Colin Quigley, Matt Challinor, Tyler Hotson, Latu Makaafi, Michael Hills ©, Alex Shaw
Replacements; 16 Tom Davies, 17 Jack Bergmanas, 18 Ross Davies, 19 Jon Phelan, 20 Phill Eggleshaw, 21 Andy Bulumakau, 22 Bruno Bravo
Pens; Flockhart (3)
Conv; Flockhart (1)
Worcester Warriors XV; Ben Howard Sam Smith, Alex Grove, Andy Symons, Tom Biggs; Ignacio Mieres, Charlie Mulchrone; Ryan Bower, Niall Annett, Nick Schonert; James Percival, Dan Sanderson; Mike Williams, Sam Betty, GJ van Velze (Capt.).
Replacements: Dan George, Mike Daniels, Val Rapava Ruskin, Matt Cox, Jonny Arr, Tiff Eden, Max Stelling.
Tries; Bower, Smith, Stelling, Betty
Pens; Mieres (2)
Conv; Mieres (3)