Doncaster Knights 20 Ealing Trailfinders 12: Knights deliver season's best to thwart champions-elect

Within minutes of Doncaster’s triumph at Castle Park, unquestionably the team’s best performance and result during the Championship season, the club stressed they were already looking ahead to the next campaign.

From today and until Friday, Doncaster will announce one new signing each day, and this is in addition to the retention of those players,12 so far plus five from the academy, who have accepted contracts for the 2024-2025 season.

As the Knights celebrated a remarkable win against the team which could not be stopped from being crowned champions because their nearest rivals, Coventry, lost at Cornish Pirates, it became clear that head coach, Joe Ford, will be signing or will have recruited up to 20 new players, several, it’s understood, with Premiership experience.

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With one league match remaining at Hartpury, an attacking side who scored six tries against Ampthill as Doncaster toppled Ealing, the Knights are fifth in the Championship with a record of 11 wins in 19 contests, taking them to 57 points.

Joe Ford oversaw his best result at Doncaster Knights head coach (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)Joe Ford oversaw his best result at Doncaster Knights head coach (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
Joe Ford oversaw his best result at Doncaster Knights head coach (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Having played so convincingly against the champions, scoring two outstanding tries by scrum half Ollie Fox and centre Joe Margetts and defending so solidly, supporters are now hoping the season will end on another high note with an away victory in Gloucestershire.

Arguably with a full-time squad, Doncaster should have achieved far more this season; while there have been distinguished performances against, for example, Cornish Pirates in Penzance and beating Bedford at Castle Park, several results were disappointing, among them…losing badly at Coventry, being beaten twice by Ampthill and outplayed at Caldy…raised some pointed questions.

What was not in doubt was the team spirit at Castle Park, and this proved to be decisive against Ealing because going into such an important clash, the team had lost consecutive league games, conceding 81 points.

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Therefore, the defence needed to be at its sharpest and most aggressive, so full credit must be given to defence coach Lewis Tyson whose preparations were top class as Ford explained:

“ Tyson did a great job. Not many teams this season have kept Ealing to 12 points. He prepared the boys brilliantly and they put their bodies on the line.

“ I thought our half backs Ollie Fox and Russ Bennett were outstanding and overall, I am so proud of the lads who recovered well after we lost in the last play of the game at Bedford.

“ I am happy with the recruitment, and it helps to attract new players when they know that we are a club with solid foundations. We have a good reputation, and players know they’ll be paid on time.”

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As well as seeing Fox and Margetts seize their scoring opportunities, what was also impressive was the accuracy of the goal kicking from fly-half Russ Bennett, staying for another season.

Bennett’s two conversions and penalties on 40 and 68 minutes were invaluable and going into the last 12 minutes(20-12) as Ealing counter-attacked, the Knights were under severe pressure, but survived because of their effective tackling and Ealing’s errors which had appeared throughout.

Doncaster Knights: McBryde, Simpson, Margetts, Bedlow(Olver 68), Holden(Metcalfe 77), Bennett, Fox, Davidson(Courtney 68), Roberts(Doughty 77), Thiede(Foster 59), Mintern(Beckett 66), Murphy, Brown(Digby 54), Smeaton(Ehizode 77), Wilson.

Ealing Trailfinders: Kelleher, Collins, Kernohan, O’Brien(Lancaster 68), Cordy-Redden, Willis, Hampson(Williams 75), Whyte, Cornish(Willemse 45), Alo(Davis 59), O’Connor, Davidson(Maddison 54), Reid(Uzokwe 59), Hardwick, Smid(Montgomery 70).

Referee: Alex Thomas.