Doncaster Knights produced their finest display of the season to storm into the semi-finals of the British and Irich Cup.
Clive Griffiths’s side put their Championship troubles behind them with an emphatic 80-minute performance against a Munster A side who were a lot stronger than their second-string status suggests.
The win was Doncaster’s seventh out of seven in the competition; form that contrasts sharply with a sequence of eight straight defeats in the league that has left them second bottom.
But the Knights have reserved some of their better performances for the Cup this season with Saturday’s display at a raucous Castle Park the pick of the bunch.
Doncaster controlled proceedings from the outset against a much-fancied Munster ‘A’ side which had considerable top-flight experience.
The Knights threatened with purpose all afternoon and showed real prowess from the set-piece.
Despite falling behind to a Rory Scannell penalty, they quickly took charge with a powerful scrum and kick to touch resulting in a driving maul that forced captain Michael Hills over; Dougie Flockhart converting the first of what would be a perfect six from six from the Scotsman.
Scrum-half Bruno Bravo jinked past two defenders to score the Knights’ second try before another rolling maul – an area Griffiths had said in the build-up would be crucial to their chances – they crossed again with Hills once more the scorer.
One of Doncaster’s problems in the league this season has been surrendering good positions, but there was no chance of this as they returned for the second half with Flockhart kicking a penalty before Donncha O’Callaghan – with 94 caps for Ireland – was sent to the sin-bin.
Despite losing Bravo to an elbow injury, the Knights continued to roll forward, Latu Makaafi crossing for the fourth try after patient build-up.
Munster responded with their first score when Scannell ran through a gap to score, converting the try to reduce the arrears to 31-10.
A well-worked score produced Doncaster’s fifth to end any hopes of an Irish comeback, replacement scrum-half Jack Maplesden and Alex Shaw combining to release Paul Jarvis, who in turn fed Flockhart to race home.
The last act went to Munster as Dan Goggin produced a thundering run for a try that was converted, but there is no doubting it was Doncaster’s day.
The task now is to translate this pack power and athletic running into their remaining Championship games.
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis (Roberts 78), Flockhart, Bulumakau, Armitage (Clark 67), Lewis, Francis, Bravo (Maplesden 47); List (Bergmanas 67), Hunter (Veikoso 62), Davies (John 70), Hotson, Phelan, Makaafi (Challinor 62), Hills, Shaw.
Munster A: Fitzgerald, Sweetnam, Johnston, Lyons, O’Shea (Goggin 53’), Scannell, Cronin (Cullen 67); O’Connor (McCabe 23), Scannell (O’Bryne 40), Sweeney (Lavery 53), O’Callaghan, Nicholas, Buckley, Dougall (Ryan 62), O’Donoghue (Kilkenny 53).
Referee: D Jones (RFU).