Doncaster Knights 26 Ealing Trailfinders 46: Ealing ruin Knights' long-awaited return

FOR THE first time in more than ten months, Doncaster Knights took to the field to play rugby again today.

Granted, they did not get the result they wanted, in what was also Steve Boden’s first game in charge as head coach, but that almost felt immaterial.

The very fact they were playing in this pre-season fixture, after all the chaos caused by Covid, was the main point.

Ealing Trailfinders, who defeated Saracens a fortnight earlier in the first game of this Trailfinders Challenge Cup tri-club series, built up a commanding 33-7 interval lead.

They had also played four games before Christmas and you could tell; they were well-drilled, battle-hardened and largely accurate while Doncaster initially looked like a team that had not played since last March.

They did not even manage any possession in the Ealing ‘22 during the first period apart from when on-loan Wasps full-back Tom Bacon picked up a loose visitors’ pass to race in from 80m for the opener in the third minute.

Thereafter, the London side took full control, capitalising as Knights too often spilled or infringed, their driving maul proving one destructive weapon.

They racked up five tries from James Cordy Redden, Will Davis, Bobby de Wee, Guy Thompson and Craig Hampson.

On-loan Wasps full-back Tom Bacon races away for Doncaster Knights' opening try. (PIC: TONY JOHNSON)

Nevertheless, the Knights - who had a dozen newcomers on show - fought back admirably in the second period when they scored two quickfire back-to-back tries.

Centre Charlie Foley’s wonderful break got them on the front foot and Sam Olver’s weighted chip to the corner saw Kyke Evans finish well.

Then, after Matt Smith had stolen an Ealing line-out, Doncaster earned a penalty that saw them rumble over via young hooker Will Holling for Olver’s third conversion to suddenly see them trail just 33-21.

The visitors responded with David Johnston after Knights defence was splintered too easily in the middle but Boden’s men hit back again as some slick handling to the left saw debutant winger Aaron Reed, on loan from Sale Sharks, hare over just after the hour mark.

Doncaster Knights' Will Holling rises to challenge for the ball. (PIC: TONY JOHNSON)

But, after the unusual occurrence of the referee Hamish Smales departing injured, Steven Shingler struck a penalty to make sure Ealing could not be caught and they rounded off victory with Dean Hammond’s try.

Doncaster Knights: Bacon; Evans, Foley (McBryde 72), Best, Reed; Olver (Strong 72), Mitchell; Cade (Roberts 56), Holling (Pieterse 72), Jones (Foster 53), Challinor, Smith, Britton, Graham, Volpi (Davies 72)

Ealing Trailfinders: Daniels; Redden, Johnston, Howard (Strachan 75), Hammond; Willis (Shingler 50), Hampson (Burns 65); Davis (Chilvers, 70), Walker (Malton 50), Millar Mills (Davis 15) de Wee, West (Nonkontwana 60), Murphy (Korczyk 50), Thompson, Smid.

Referee: Hamish Smales