Hartpury College 15 Doncaster Knights 20: Ealing test next up for Knights after hard-fought win at Hartpury

Doncaster begin preparing today for their most challenging home game of the entire Championship campaign: Saturday’s clash at Castle Park against Ealing Trailfinders, the top and best side in the league and the favourites to win promotion to the Premiership at the end of the season.

HARD WORK: Doncaster coach Steve Boden felt his side were excellent defensively against Hartpury but made hard work of their 20-15 victory. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

As Doncaster won a close contest at the Alpas Arena in Gloucestershire by three tries to two, their fifth win in seven games and one which keeps them in fourth place, Ealing, leading on 31 points, struggled to beat Jersey Reds, but ultimately lost 35-29.

The London club arrive in South Yorkshire with six victories in seven matches and as Doncaster’s coach Steve Boden says: “On Saturday we face a monumental test. Ealing are a big side physically and we will have to play a thousand times better than we did against Hartpury if we are to get a result.”

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After a weak start, in which they conceded two early tries on five and 10 minutes, Doncaster recovered strongly, scoring tries by centre Joe Margetts, winger Jack Spittle and second row forward Josh Peters.

The Knights took time to fight back and only started gaining decent ball and territory after more than 20 minutes into the first half. Indeed, all their tries were scored before the interval.

Spittle and scrum-half Alex Dolly created Margetts’ opportunity, on 30 minutes flanker Thom Smith, a new signing from Leicester Tigers won a line-out that set up Spittle’s try, and just before half-time, Doncaster went ahead for the first time as Peters completed a powerful raid by the pack.

With fly-half Sam Olver converting, they led 17-12, but the Knights were unable to exploit favourable attacking positions and would have lost if their defence had not been so solid. Their only second-half points came from a penalty by Olver on 58 minutes, but as Boden said: “We are happy to get the win. We could have been better and we have not yet hit our potential.

“I thought the new forwards, Conor Davidson, Smith and Ben Murphy, did well, but our line-out didn’t function, our discipline needs looking at and at times we couldn’t keep hold of the ball.

“Our defence, though, was incredible and we had a dominant scrum, but why are we defending so much?”.

Hartpury Rugby: B Foley, S Smith, Tovey (McNab 60), C Foley, R Smith, Williams, JB Bruzulier, Macguire, Crane, C.Knight (SKnight 40), Lemon, Scott, Gray (Howard 58), Short, Merigan (Robinson 57).

Doncaster Knights: McBryde, Holden, Margetts (Starchan 74), Best, Spittle, Olver, Dolly, Davidson (Paul 77), Roberts (Holling 55), Foster (Denman 55), Drake (Davies 65), Peters (Murphy 55), Smith, Graham, Kelly (Hudson 70).

Referee: Joe James.