LAST season’s runners-up Doncaster Knights look to have the weapons to go one better in the B & I Cup this time around after beating Pool 5 rivals Connacht Eagles at Castle Park.
But whether they see winning the competition as something worth fighting for this season, given their target of a top-four finish in the Championship, is another question.
Director of rugby Clive Griffiths made no secret of the fact during the build-up that he viewed this weekend’s league game against Moseley the more important of the two.
But that didn’t stop him putting out a strong side for their latest challenge with scrum-half Michael Heaney making a welcome return after missing the last four games and resuming his partnership with Declan Cusack for the first time for over two months.
It was just as well that he did as Eagles arrived with a much stronger side than the one beaten 34-10 by a Newport-Gwent Dragons Select a week earlier.
Although the result was never in doubt, Knights rarely looked like running away with the game even though full-back Paul Jarvis gave them a flying start with an 80-metre try after just seven minutes.
Despite Cusack’s best efforts to get the ball out wide, Knights were unable to build on their start and the Irish side came more into the game.
They put Knights under sustained pressure on occasions and it wasn’t until flanker Rory Moloney was sin-binned on 31 minutes that the home side extended their lead through a well-worked try by wing Tyson Lewis.
Having conceded early tries after the restart in recent games, Knights will have been happy to see second-rower Glen Young grab a 44th-minute try to make it 17-0.
But once again Knights flattered to deceive and the only addition to their tally was a close-range try by Jarvis at the start of the final quarter which earned his side a bonus point.
Eagles continued to give a good account of themselves and Doncaster had to dig deep defensively at times.
Just when it was beginning to look as though Knights would keep a clean sheet, replacement No 8 Stephen McVeigh touched down from close range on 77 minutes.
Only a superb cover tackle by Sam Edgerley, who came off his wing. denied Maloney a second try at the death.
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis (Field 70), Flockhart, Bulumakau, Hurrell, Lewis (Edgerley 41), Cusack, Heaney; List (Sprotson 70), Hunter (Viekoso 70), John (Quigley 51), Hotson, Young (Phelan 58), Makaafi (Stedman 44), Hills,Shaw.
Connacht Eagles: Gaffney, Leavy, Brennan, McSharry, O’Keefe, McKeon(Moymihan 70), Blade (Kerins 71); Walshe (Burke 71),O’Toole (Healey 71), Neunargia, Claffey(Romaine 58), Gallagher, Connolly (Kelly 61), Moloney, O’Brien (McVeigh (71).
Referee: Dan Jones (WRFU).