Newport Gwent XV 17 Doncaster Knights 49: Doncaster on cloud nine after assuming control of Cup destiny

Clive Griffiths with Glen Kenworthy
Clive Griffiths with Glen Kenworthy
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Doncaster Knights impressive 2015 continued at the weekend as they comprehensively toppled Newport Gwent Dragons’ Premiership Select XV in the British and Irish Cup.

The Castle Park-based side ran out 49-­17 winners to extend their current unbeaten run to nine games in all competition and leaves them three points clear at the top of pool five with fellowChampionship side Jersey RFC in second.

Commenting on his side’s performance, Knights’ forwards coach Glen Kenworthy said: “We did a very professional job on the road in tricky conditions.

“I thought we scored some really nice tries. It was nice to get a couple of scores from the set- piece and win some penalties from the scrum.”

Despite the impressive scoreline it was the hosts who drew first blood in a fixture that was played at the revised venue of CCB Centre for Sporting Excellence, Ystrad Mynach, after Bedwas RFC was deemed unsuitable following some adverse weather conditions in the week.

The Dragons won a penalty in midfield that fly­-half Angus O’Brien coolly slotted, however, the lead quickly disappeared.

The Knights’ reaction was swift and in a dominant opening 40 minutes they secured not only the win but the four-­try bonus point.

Flanker Latu Makaafi dotted down for his 15th and 16th tries of the season before the half with Yorkshireman Mat Clark also bagging a first-half brace from the right wing.

Saturday’s game was the second of back-to-back fixtures between the sides with the Knights holding on for a 21­-16 win in the home leg after Newport produced a much-improved second-half display to almost steal an unlikely late victory. It seemed that the return might follow a similar pattern as openside flanker James Benjamin, who had been sin-binned earlier in the fixture, touched down for the hosts just five minutes into the second period.

However, the revival was shortlived.

A yellow card for winger George Gasson for a no arm tackle on Clark was quickly followed by a Doncaster penalty try which was converted by Declan Cusack to put the result beyond doubt before the Knights added some gloss to the score in the final quarter.

Benjamin James got his second try of the game on 65 minutes but the Knights responded byscoring two well-­crafted tries.

Firstly, full back Sam Edgerley produced an outrageous hand off to fellow winger Aaron Warren and set up Andy Bulumakau for a score after some nice handling.

Then, with the clock ticking towards full-time, scrum­-half Michael Heaney spotted a hole in back field and chipped a perfectly­ weighted kick ahead of replacement wing Tyson Lewis.

The speedster outstripped his coverage to collect and race over in the corner, Simon Humberstone marked his return from injury with an impressive conversion from the touchline before referee Sean Gallagher ended proceedings.

The Knights will now hope to carry their Cup form back into the Championship which resumes next weekend against Nottingham at Castle Park.

Kenworthy said: “They [Dragons] came out brightly in the second half but we were able to weather that storm and overall produced a very professional 80 minute. It’s good to be top of the group and the win leaves us with some good momentum ahead of Nottingham on Boxing Day.”

Newport Gwent D’gons Select: G. Jones, Brew, Nightingale, A Jones, Gasson, O’Brien, L Jones, Garrett, Gustafson, LBrown, Andrews, A Brown, Skinner, Benjamin, Keddie. Replacements: Shipp, Cornock, Jeffries, Sweet, O. Davies, Robson, Edwards.

Doncaster Knights: Edgerley, Clark, Bulumakau, Armitage, Hurrell, Cusack, Heaney, List, Stagg, Quigley, Hotson, Phelan, Makaafi, Hills, Steadman. Replacements: Hunter, Sproston, W. John, Challinor, Shaw, Humberstone, Lewis.