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Home > News > Doncaster Knights 26 - Bristol 22
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Your News Doncaster Knights 26 - Bristol 22

For the second year running Doncaster Knights defeated the relegated Premiership side from the previous season in a match that had great similarities to the way they beat Leeds last season. The only difference was that last year the Knights were on a roll whereas this season they have struggled to find form with their squad decimated by injuries to senior players.

For Saturday’s game against second placed Bristol, Knights Director of Rugby Lynn Howells kept faith with the pack that had comprehensively outplayed Plymouth the previous week whilst, in the backs, the only real change was forced on him by injuries. With the ever present Douglas Flockhart having been forced to put out with a calf strain picked up in training, Knights gave a chance to youngster Ed Styles, in on loan from Sale, and the return to fitness of Steve McColl allowed him to come in at fullback in place of Assistant Coach Brett Davey who returned to the bench.

Bristol started with the advantage of a strong breeze and pinned the Knights into their own half through astute kicking by their flay half Adrian Jarvis. The Knights cause was not helped by problems they were having on their own line out and it was from one of these that the first score came. The Knights lost their own lineout on the halfway line which enabled Bristol to take play deep into the Doncaster 22 where, after a drive from their own lineout, hooker Ross Johnston took advantage of a gap to race over for the games opening try. Although Jarvis missed the conversion, he made no mistake a couple of minutes later to take his side into an 8 point lead after only 10 minutes. However the Knights held their shape and, on their first excursion into the Bristol half, the visitors were penalised for offside chasing a kick which gave Knights fly half Ali Warnock the opportunity to put his side on the scoreboard which he duly took. This score gave the Knights the fillip they needed and they took the game back to their illustrious visitors. With their defence now outstanding the Knights were giving Bristol no where to go and they at last got their lineout working properly as they won a ball on the halfway line. After several forward drives, the Knights moved the ball to the left where their hooker Steve Lawrie raced through a gap midfield and deep into the Bristol 22 before passing to centre Bevon Armitage whose inside pass was scooped up by Warnock who went over for a try that he himself converted. Although Jarvis kicked his second penalty shortly afterwards when the Knights were penalised for not rolling away from the ball at a ruck, Warnock responded in kind shortly afterwards when Bristol were penalised for collapsing a scrum. From Bristol’s restart, Knights flanker Adam Kettle caught the ball just inside his 22 and evaded a tackle before racing to the halfway line. As Kettle was tackled he fed the ball to his supporting fellow flanker Simon Grainger who made a couple of yards before putting scrum half Chris Hallam on a clear 40 metre unopposed run for a try that Warnock converted.

Turning around 20 points to 11 ahead the Knights reverted to a simple game plan with Warnock and the outstanding McColl using the wind to pin Bristol deep into their own half where their attempts to run their way out of defence were thwarted by Doncaster’s ruthless tackling. Jarvis reduced his side’s deficit when the Knights were penalised for handling in a ruck after 48 minutes after which play was held up for 5 minutes whilst Bristol hooker Johnston had to be stretchered off with a serious knee injury. A few minutes later Warnock, now pulling the Knights’ strings, drop a goal from 35 metres to take his side’s lead back to 8 points. Bristol did not give up and, when the Knights were penalised for not releasing the ball on the ground, Jarvis kicked his fourth penalty of the game. The Knights stuck to their game plan and, when 3 minutes later Bristol put in a poor clearing kick, McColl gathered the ball just inside the visitor’s half and coolly drop a great goal from almost 50 metres. The Knights were not now in the mood to throw away their hard earned lead and they defended as if their lives depended on it. Backs and forwards alike knocked the Bristol runners backwards as the visitors threw all of their replacements into the fray in a desperate attempt to win the game. As the game went into injury time Bristol gathered a kick midfield just outside their own half and a long pass to left wing Dan Norton gave him the space to go outside his opposite number before sidestepping outside the covering Styles to score in the corner. This score reduced the Knights lead to 4 points and their fans had to endure an agonisingly long 14 minutes of injury time as Bristol sort a winning score. However the Knights players were more than up to the task and their defensive line never once wavered as they kept Bristol away from their try line. When the final whistle went it was the Bristol side, with its seven replacements who looked much more tired than the Knights who only used their front row replacements during the game.

After the match, a delighted Lynn Howells thanked his players, the supporters and the Board for “keeping the faith” during their opening five defeats as his young side came to terms with the referees’ interpretations of the changed laws whilst themselves having to overcome the loss of half a dozen of their experienced players through injury. Howells said that he was very, very pleased that the players who had stepped in had been honest with themselves and had worked hard in training to “get the show back on the road”. With the likes of skipper Kenworthy, back rowers Cochrane and Planchant, prop Davies and full back Carter now back in full training they themselves would have to work very hard to displace the players who had stepped into their places and “had put their hands up when the going got tough!”

Doncaster Knights: McColl, Wright, Armitage, Tonga’uiha, Styles, Warnock, Hallam, Corsar (Toke 62), Lawrie (Boden 74), Ta’u (Cusack HT), Townson, Griffiths, Kettle, Boyde, Grainger Subs not used: Smith, D’Arcy, Davey, Briers

Bristol: Arscott L, Arscott T, Adams, Eves (Fatiolofa 66), Norton, Jarvis, Spice (Shaw 76), Clarke (Irish 57), Johnston (Hayes 47), Crompton (Thompson 76), Phillips, Winters, Grieve (Sabmucetti 57), Montagu, Pennycock (Merriman 64)

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