Doncaster deserve great praise after reaching the final against all the odds.
This memorable victory at Castle Park against opponents who seemingly have an unlimited supply of cash, showed what can be achieved by character, solid defence and a determination to prove wrong those critics who have doubted Doncaster’s ability to survive in the Championship.
That goal, with five important league games remaining, has still to be achieved, but recent improvement in form suggests that Castle Park will be staging Championship rugby next season, but before then, it will host the final of the British and Irish Cup on April 3 between the South Yorkshire side and Worcester Warriors.
Doncaster reached the final thanks to outstanding defence in the last 10 minutes. Clinging to their lead of 27-22 set up by tries from forwards Richard List, Ollie Stedman – running 60 metres to score – and Michael Hills, plus 12 points by goal kicker Dougie Flockhart, they had to survive several minutes of severe pressure from Bristol.
With the momentum strongly in Bristol’s favour, it seemed inevitable they would score a fourth try; however, a combination of their errors – two lost lineouts and a knock on – and Doncaster’s tremendous defending preserved the lead.
Appropriately, just before the confirmation of Doncaster’s passage to the final, the forwards, who had contributed so much, drove Bristol’s pack backwards – to the delight of the home crowd.
“This win is a great day for the club and the final, too, is going to be a great day,” explained Clive Griffiths, Doncaster’s coach, who has experienced many stressful periods this campaign.
“I’m delighted for the players and the fans. This is one of the finest moments in my career.
“We had a disgraceful start when Bristol scored in the first minute, but to come back against a club which have so many resources revealed our character.
“Defence wins games and that’s taken us into the final against my old club Worcester.
“What we have to do is to draw on this fantastic result in our last five Championship matches, the first of which is at London Scottish on Friday.”
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis, Flockhart, Clark, Armitage, Lewis, Fosita, Field, (Bravo 72), List (Davies 63), Veikoso (Bergmanas 72), John (Quigley 69), Hotson, Phelan, Eggleshaw (Makaafi 59), Hills, Stedman.
Bristol: Wallace, Amesbury, Tovey, Mosses, Lemi (Watkins 61), Robinson, Hampson, Traynor, McMillan (Lawrence 65), Perenise (Cortes 56), Jones, Glynn, Koster (Ovens 47), Lam, Eadie.
Referee: A Jackson.