A FIRST-HALF hat-trick by winger Tyson Lewis set up Doncaster’s victory by seven tries to one at Castle Park in a Yorkshire derby which was much more competitive than the outcome suggested.
As a result of Doncaster’s 13th win in 16 league games, the Knights remain on course to gain promotion and are four points clear at the top of the table from their nearest rivals, Rosslyn Park.
By contrast, Ionians, who fought non-stop and whose pack won plenty of ball, stay firmly at the bottom of National One, having suffered their 15th defeat.
The Hull side, 10 points behind Tynedale, impressed with their attitude, commitment and handling skills in the backs, but against full-time opposition, who were fitter and stronger, a rare win was not a probability away from home.
Not surprisingly with much at stake for both sides, the contest produced passion and aggression; explosive incidents were inevitable as were the two red cards that followed for each side.
In the first half, Ionians’ flanker Henry Forbes was sent off for a violent foul which meant his team were competing against the best side in the league with only 14 men for more than an hour.
It was an additional handicap Hull could have done without, and considering Doncaster’s superiority, Ionians can be proud of the character they showed throughout.
To restrict a side of Doncaster’s power to six tries during Forbes’s absence, two of which came late in the second half, was by no means a bad effort.
The Knights also upset the referee, Marcus Caton, with No 8 Adam Kettle being dismissed on 65 minutes.
Kettle insists he was yards away from the alleged stamping incident and that Mr Caton identified the wrong culprit.
Doncaster are reviewing the red card and are likely to appeal.Kettle’s sending off did not influence the result. With a lead of 34-8, Doncaster were well in control and, indeed, went on to score two more tries in the 78th minute and two minutes into stoppage time through backs Paul Jarvis and Australian debutant Jacob Woodhouse.
Earlier, Hull, playing with energy, enterprise and a sense of purpose seized a 5-3 lead as soon as the ninth minute when fly-half Chris Reakes, who surely has the ability to play in the Championship, made a 30-metre dash to score a thrilling try.
Sadly from Ionians’ point of view, Reakes’s score was their only try, but they did create several other attacking positions near Doncaster’s line in both halves.
However, a combination of mistakes, solid defending by their opponents and lacking the ammunition at this level to deliver promise into points, Hull were constantly at a disadvantage.
By contrast, Doncaster led 22-8 at the interval thanks to Lewis’s pace, and as the second half unfolded, they added four more sparkling tries, two by Jarvis and one apiece for three-quarters Dougie Flockhart and Woodhouse.
The injury crisis has forced Knights’ coach Clive Griffiths to search far and wide for recruits. The signing of Woodhouse, leading try scorer last season for Manly in the Shute Shield, Sydney’s top league, looks a sensible decision.
Woodhouse, 22, appeared for Australia in the Junior World Cup in Italy in 2011 and his talent is being closely watched by New South Wales Waratahs.
“The coaches here have put a good structure in place. I am at Doncaster until the end of the season and if things progress, perhaps for another year or two,” says Woodhouse.
“The standard in National One is pretty good and quite physical. It is not as fast as the Sydney competition but that’s because it’s a bit wet in the UK.
“I’ve found it strange that some teams are full-time and others part-time.
“The boys have been welcoming, but I have struggled a bit with the cold, although I am acclimatising and once you’ve warmed up, you are fine.”
Woodhouse and the rest of the Knights squad have a week off before returning to prepare for a trip to Worthing Raiders.
Meanwhile, Griffiths will be active on the phone yet again this week to try to sign a No 8 following a shoulder injury to Phil Eggleshaw, who is out for the remainder of the season.
As regards Hull Ionians, their priority must be to start 2014 with a home win against Cinderford as backs’ coach Steve Townend explained.
“The first six weeks of the new year will determine our future and the first objective is to close the gap between ourselves and Tynedale so that we put pressure on them,” he said.
“Our team spirit remains tremendous and our captain Joe Makin must be given a lot of credit for that. Our young players are still learning to play at this level, but against Doncaster our scrum and line-out went well and, bearing in mind that we had only 14 men for 60 minutes, we competed strongly.”
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis, Flockhart, Clark, Bannister, Lewis(Woodhouse 46), Lennard (Roberts 67), Bravo, Brugnara(Morris 52), Santamaria(Bergmanas 68), Pasquali, Kenworthy(Spencer 68), Walker-Fitton, Challinor, Hills, Kettle.
Hull Ionians: Slingsby, Wilton, S Forbes (Martin 60), Thundercliffe (Thomas 40), Smith, Reakes, Green, Laverick (Longbone 70), Thomson (Rice 60), Makin, Sanders, H Forbes, Wigham, Hague (Campbell 60).
Referee: M Caton.