Doncaster Knights 34 Moseley 11: Knights now looking serious contenders

AFTER witnessing his side eventually succumb to Doncaster Knights’ power, Moseley coach Kevin Maggs offered the opinion that the South Yorkshire club must be viewed as serious Championship title contenders.

Doncaster Knights' Paul Jarvis breaks through the Moseley line. Picture: Scott Merrylees

Given his own stature, being a formidable centre alongside a certain Brian O’Driscoll in Ireland’s midfield during his pomp, his views are not to be taken lightly.

Indeed, Doncaster, battling against relegation 12 months ago, are now up to second, having stretched their unbeaten run in all games to six.

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This, of course, was not the most aesthetically pleasing of victories given the near-persistent rain the game was played in and that neither side managed much fluency.

But, having shown their growing potential by winning at leaders Bristol recently, digging out such a dogged result as this on Saturday – Doncaster trailed 8-7 against their 10th-placed opponents at the break – clearly demonstrates they can emerge successfully from all sorts of scenarios.

A bigger test will undoubtedly come this Saturday when they head to Bedford for what Knights’ director of rugby Clive Griffiths describes as a “humdinger” of a contest.

He was just as pleased with his squad’s efforts at the weekend, however, and said: “It was messy, it was drizzly, greasy on top and a difficult win but fair credit to Moseley. They are that sort of team; you have to wear them down.

“There was a lot of frustrations in the first half particularly when they scored right at the end to go in 8-7 when they hadn’t really threatened us.

“But we feel – aside from ourselves – they are the most improved team in the competition so we didn’t under-estimate them and realised it would be a grinding-down process as they will be there until the death.

“The work we made them do in that first half, though, particularly in their defence, showed in the last quarter and the substitutions we made really gave us impetus.”

Indeed, those replacements did make an impression. Latu Makaafi scored just seconds after coming on as part of a triple switch in the pack in the 67th minute, gaining the try that secured victory.

It was the Tongan back-row’s 12th of the league season, maintaining his unexpected role as the Championship’s top try-scorer.

Crucially, the hosts went on to bag a bonus point as well when full-back Paul Jarvis crossed in the final minute, Dougie Flockhart converting from the touchline to finish with a personal haul of 14 points.

Tyson Lewis had regained Doncaster the lead after a fine break by David Clark in the 47th minute, No8 Ollie Stedman having crossed in the first half from a line-out drive.

On former Wharfedale favourite Makaafi’s current try-scoring form, Griffiths admitted the 33-year-old is benefiting from recent rule changes.

“He is having a real purple patch of form,” said the Welshman. “There’s more drives and mauls at the moment and the way it’s refereed it is now more difficult to defend so you are more likely to concede. But we’re more of a general play sort of side than catch and drive.

“We did score one today (line-out drive) and missed another two so we do have it in our armoury but we don’t rely on it solely. It was difficult to leave him (Makaafi) out of the starting line-up today but we just picked a team that was more Moseley-esque, let’s say.

“That substitution came just at the right time, though; we defended a line-out and then from a scrum Latu’s fresh legs saw him run 70 metres to back-up and score.”

Exhausted Moseley were hanging on at the end especially after flanker Ed Siggery was yellow-carded offering Flockhart another easy three points, but Doncaster still had to work hard for that bonus point try. Credit, too, to fly-half Declan Cusack who directed well despite suffering an ankle problem.

Doncaster Knights: Jarvis; Flockhart, Clark (Bulumakau 79), Hurrell, Lewis; Cusack, Heaney (Edgerley 77); List (Bergmanas 71), Hunter (Viekoso 67), Quigley (John 67), Challinor, Phelan, Shaw (Makaafi 67), Hills, Stedman.

Moseley: Foley; Williams (Armstrong 47), King, Pinches, Cheshire; Hughes, Brown (Brazier 65); Fiddler (Warren 65), Caves, Voisey (Gardiner 65), Flagg, Charlton, Lawrence, Siggery, Brightwell.

Referee: A Jackson (RFU).