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Home > News > Doncaster Knights 9 - Exeter Chiefs 14
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Your News Doncaster Knights 9 - Exeter Chiefs 14

Although the conditions at Castle Park were perfect for rugby, when two of the top five defensive sides in the league meet a try scoring feast is not to be expected and that is exactly what happened. This, coupled with some poor kicking by both teams, made for a low scoring game where the result was decided by a single try five minutes from the end from a close in drive by Exeter Chiefs.

For the Knights first match in the second half of the regular season at home to unbeaten leaders Exeter Chiefs, their Director of Rugby Lynn Howells elected to start with the same team that he had chosen to play in the postponed British and Irish Cup game at Pontypridd the previous weekend. For their part, Exeter paid the Knights the compliment of starting with the strongest team they had available.

Although the Knights started brightly, Exeter soon got into their stride and started to put pressure on the home side whose cause was not helped, as it was not throughout the game, by some poor kicking both in attack and defence. However the Knights defence was up for the game as they resisted all the Chiefs’ attempts to bludgeon their way over their line from close in. After 16 minutes Exeter fly half Gareth Steenson opened the scoring with a penalty after the Knights were penalised following a poor clearance kick. Steenson repeated this feat 5 minutes later when the Knights were again penalised after putting themselves under pressure by their kicking. This second setback seemed to jolt the Knights into action and they started to take the game to the Chiefs with a good counter-attack but they were not helped by the loss of a couple of their own lineouts. After 28 minutes Exeter were penalised at a scrum and Knights flyhalf Ali Warnock kicked a good goal from about 40 metres. Unfortunately for the Knights, from the restart they put failed to clear their lines and, although they were awarded a scrum 30 metres out but they managed to lose the ball against the head and it was moved swiftly to centre Matt Cornwall who dropped a goal from 30 metres out. As the match went into first half injury time, Exeter were deep inside the Knights 22 but, as they moved the ball wide to the left, it was intercepted by Knights full back Steve McColl but unfortunately he did not have the pace to go the required 75 metres. Although his support tried to get to him he was hauled down by the covering Exeter defence about 22 metres out for the final play of the half.

Doncaster started the second half in a positive mood and they were unlucky when winger Chris Briars lost control of the ball as he was diving over in the corner following good work by Knights “man on the match” scrum half Chris Hallam. The next 20 minutes started to get more exciting as the game opened up although both sides still seemed reluctant to move too far away from their kicking game. On two occasions the Knights were one pass away from a score when they were unable to capitalise on good work firstly from centre Hudson Tonga’uiha and then from flying winger Matty Williams. With 67 minutes gone Exeter were penalised 5 metres inside the Doncaster half and McColl kicked an excellent flat penalty from 55 metres. Within two minutes the Knights were level through a drop goal by Warnock from 35 metres out and, at 9 all, it was game on! With only 5 minutes left Exeter gained a position deep inside the Knights 22 and their forwards drove for the line. Just when it was looking as if the Knights defence was going to hold out, Chiefs prop Chris Budgen just managed to squeeze over near the corner for a try that Steenson could not converted. The Knights were undaunted but, try as they may, they could not get into a good attacking position and the game ended with play just inside the Exeter half.

After the game Doncaster can reflect on an outstanding defensive performance against a team that averages almost 4 tries a game but that, in itself, was not quite enough. They will also need to get more precision into their kicking game as well as deciding when to counter-attack with the ball in their hands as they looked very dangerous when they did so in the second half. Scrummaging wise, apart from one loss, the Knights did well but they will have to address the reasons why they struggled to win their own lineouts on a number of occasions. Still a bonus point against the league leaders is better than nothing and the Knights will need to build on that when they travel to Cornwall to play the Pirates this coming Sunday.

Doncaster Knights: McColl, Briars (Carter 73), Armitage, Tonga’uiha, Williams, Warnock, Hallam (D’Arcy 67), Davies (Corsar 67), Boden (Lawrie 67), Ta’u (Cusack (HT), Townson, Griffiths, Grainger, Planchant, Cochrane (Kettle 65) Sub not used: Boyde

Exeter Chiefs: Lewis (Mackenzie 59), Jess, Dolman, Cornwell, Foster, Steenson, Thomas, Sturgess (Moon 59), Clarke (Alcott 59), Budgen, Hanks (Bentley 59), Hayes, Slade (Johnson 50), Baxter, Scaysbrook Subs not used: Stuart-Smith, Gray

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