The British and Irish Cup final proved to be one step too far for the Knights as they fell by 35-5 to an impressive Worcester Warriors side in front of a packed out Castle Park.
In miserable conditions the Warriors raced out of the blocks and subjected the Knights to a twenty-minute bombardment that they were unable to recover from.
Worcester took the initiative early and had the hosts defending their twenty-two metre shortly after the kick off, a spilt ball provided respite for Donny as winger Dougie Flockhart broke up field but the Championship high-fliers were quickly back on the front foot. The Warriors were incisive at the breakdown and recycled the ball at an impressive rate of knots and, with the defensive line stretched, winger Dean Hammond spun through a challenge to register the game’s opening score.
Worcester had a chance to add to their score moments later but Tiff Eden, playing against the Knights for a second time in two weeks, struck a penalty attempt wide. It mattered not as the Warriors added to their tally shortly after. A cross-field kick from Eden towards Australian international winger Cooper Vuna, making his Worcester debut, was well dealt with by Flockhart but at the subsequent ruck the ball was hacked loose into the Knights goal area and centre Alex Grove reacted quickest to touch down.
Things got even worse just a couple of moments later when, following a scrum penalty, the visiting pack established a well-formed, patient driving line out. The Knights held the drive initially but were eventually pushed back and scrum half JB Bruzulier claimed the score.
With the Warriors scoring at a rate of a point and minute the Knights needed to try and get their hands on the ball and establish some possession and they did. After some more encouraging signs the Knights were dealt another blow as Ben Hunter was sin binned for his role in collapsing a Warriors driving maul. Against fourteen men the visitors were able to add another penalty and then try from hooker Dan George who barreled over down the blind side following another nicely-worked driving line out. Half time score Knights 0 Worcester 29.
Under Clive Griffiths the Knights have very rarely been beaten by huge score lines but his side needed to show much improvement in the second half if they were to avoid a hammering. The Knights obliged and the second forty minutes were far more competitive with the home side registering the only try.
Clearly rallied by Griff’s half time words the Knights came out fighting and were soon in good field position after they won a penalty for a line out offence by the visitors. Fosita went to the corner and the Knights drove their way over the Warriors line, back from the sin bin, Ben Hunter grabbed the score to give the large home crowd something to cheer. The conversion saw an incident I have never previously witnessed in a game before Dougie Flockhart was time out and never allowed to take his kick at goal.
Griff made a mass personnel change shortly after the try and the Knights received a boost when Matt Cox was given a ten minute breather for a high shot on the Mat Clark. Unfortunately Donny could not make the numerical advantage count and Eden continued his impressive afternoon with the boot, adding another two penalties.
The Knights did create opportunities as the game crept towards the 80-minute mark, notable breaks coming from Fosita and George Catchpole. That said the Warriors continued to attack to the last and when referee Andy Brace blew to end the game the vocal away support cheered what had been a deserved victory.
Losing is never easy, especially not in a Cup final, but the Knights’ British and Irish Cup run has provided some of the highlights of the season including a first Cup final at Castle Park in many a year in front of a bumper, 3000 plus crowd.
The Knights return to Championship action next week, with the small matter of a South Yorkshire derby and the Yorkshire Regiment Trophy to contend.
15) Paul Jarvis, 14) Dougie Flockhart (Paul Roberts 69’), 13) George Catchpole, 12) Mat Clark (Bevon Armitage 65’), 11) Tyson Lewis, 10) Ume Fosita, 9) Tomasi Palu (Brad Field 65’), 1) Tom Davies (Richard List 47’), 2) Ben Hunter (Vili Veikoso 54’), 3) Colin Quigley (WillGriff John 53’), 4) Tyler Hotson, 5) Jon Phelan, 6) Matt Challinor, 7) Michael Hills (c) (Will Foden 69’), 8) Phil Eggleshaw
Replacements; 16 Richard List, 17 Villi Veikoso, 18 Will Foden, 19 WillGriff John, 20 Bevon Armitage, 21 Paul Roberts, 22 Brad Field
Tries; Hunter 52’
15 Ben Howard, 14 Dean Hammond, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Ravai Fatiaki (Perry Humphreys 59’), 11 Cooper Vuna (Ignacio Mieres 69’), 10 Tiff Eden, 9 JB Bruzulier (C) (Charlie Mulchrone 55’), 1 Of a Fainga’anuku (Val Rapava Ruskin 71’), 2 Dan George, 3 Joe Rees (Mike Daniels 55’), 4 James Percival, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Matt Cox (Huw Taylor 76’), 7 Mat Gilbert (Ben Sowrey 75’), 8 Richard de Carpentier
Replacements?16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Val Rapava Ruskin, 18 Mike Daniels, 19 Huw Taylor, 20 Charlie Mulchrone, 21 Ignacio Mieres, 22 Perry Humphreys
Tries; Hammond 7’, Grove 15’, Bruzulier 20’, George 37’
Conv; Eden 7’, 15’, 27’
Pens; Eden; 31’, 65’, 68’
Photo courtesy of Kate Fisher.