Doncaster Knights 31 Jersey 27: Knights stay among pacesetters

Ollie Stedman with the ball for Knights
Ollie Stedman with the ball for Knights

Doncaster Knights cemented their place among the early-season frontrunners in the Championship with this win over Jersey at Castle Park.

It was Knights’ second successive win but, as was the case at Nottingham six days earlier, they had to come from behind.

Knights knew what to expect from the Islanders, who have few peers at this level when it comes to their catch and drive game in opponents’ red zone.

But being aware of it and being able to stop it are two different things and there wasn’t much Knights could do to prevent the visitors’ two first half tries.

Knights didn’t help themselves by conceding ten first half penalties against four in addition to having hooker Ben Hunter sin-binned before the interval.

Doncaster treated their supporters to some scintillating attacking rugby in a 35-33 defeat against relegated London Welsh in their opening game and they set off in similar style – though they had a massive let-off when Jersey centre Fautua knocked on just short of the line trying to regather from a kick.

Fittingly, given his service to the Knights over the years, it was Dougie Flockhart who the honour of christening the club’s new state-of-the-art scoreboard with a 12th minute penalty.

That was quickly cancelled out by Brendan Cope’s penalty and the fly-half also added the extras to impressive No 8 Nick Haining’s 20th minute try.

With Knights struggling to put any real pressure on the visitors’ line it came as no surprise when Flockhart elected to go for goal with successive penalties to cut the deficit to just one point.

He also added the extras to flanker Latu Makaafi’s 32nd minute try from a catch and drive to edge Knights into a 16-13 lead.

Jersey capitalised on their extra man following Hunter’s exit to claim a second converted try from a catch and drive to deservedly lead 20-16 at the break

Knights conceded a try just after the break – Ross Adair making the running for fellow wing Tom Howe’s try which put the visitors nine points up and raised concerns among the home crowd of a repeat of last season’s result.

But that was as good as it got for the Reds as Knights began to play them at their own game – a ploy which led to a second try from a catch and drive by Makaafi.

Michael Heaney, who well filling in at fly-half, elected to kick for position rather than goal and their enterprise was rewarded when stand-in full-back Sam Edgerley capped a useful display with a try in the corner following some snappy handling.

Doncaster Knights: Edgerley; Flockhart, Bulumakau, Armitage, Hurrell; Heaney, Field; List, Hunter, Quigley, Challinor, Hotson, Makaafi, Hills, Stedman. Rep: Bermanas,Sprotson, John, Phelan, Shaw, Lewis, Sharp.