AFTER an impressive try-scoring debut, Doncaster Knights’ new signing Lesley Klim offered his man-of-the-match reward – a 24-can case of beer – to his sidelined colleague Andy Bulumakau.
It was a kind gesture given Klim, the Namibia centre, had only been a late call-up to Saturday’s team after his colleague suffered a training ground injury.
Furthermore, ironically, it was an accidental collision between the 22-year-old and fellow centre Bulumakau that led to that injury so you could see why he might have wanted to present him with his ale bounty.
Bulumakau politely declined but, unfortunately, it was a series of gifts from his benevolent Doncaster side that led to them losing a British & Irish Cup game they really should have won.
Director of rugby Clive Griffiths could only watch on bewildered as they conceded not one but two intercept tries against Bristol, the Championship leaders who, even at the best of times, do not need any invite to punish opponents.
However, that was only a small indication of the self-inflicted damage.
We blew it basically and it’s not a good feelingClive Griffiths
Doncaster actually threw at least three other intercepted passes, including one that led to them conceding three points and a yellow card for prop Joe Sproston and another that had seen Tonga flanker Jack Ram blindly throw the ball between his legs when inside his own half.
That sort of lax, neglectful play would not be tolerated at Under 13s level, let alone by an international; Ram may be the club’s player of the year but it is hard to imagine Knights will tolerate much more unprofessionalism like that.
He was also turned over in the first period before some woeful defence from the right-flank saw former England winger Tom Varndell race down the touchline for the first of his two tries.
Despite all their inaccuracy, Doncaster still had ample chances to win, especially when exposed Bristol – who had already lose three players to first-half injuries – were down to 13 men late on, ex-Knights centre Will Hurrell and back-row Nick Haining both sin-binned.
Nevertheless, with starting hooker Ben Hunter and chief line-out operator Tom Hicks having been replaced, that set-piece disintegrated alarmingly as the hosts lost three of their own throws in prime position.
“We blew it basically and it’s not a good feeling,” conceded Griffiths, whose side head to leaders Leinster A on Saturday knowing they may still need points to qualify for the quarter-finals as one of the three best runners-up.
“I don’t care if it’s B&I, C&G or MPQ it’s a game of rugby at the end of the day and we’ve contrived to lose a game that we should have won quite comfortably.
“With due respect to the opposition, all they did was pick up our interceptions, our errors and turnovers and ran down the other end to score points.
“It answered a few questions for us individually going forward against a good professional outfit but it’s a very disappointing day for Doncaster Knights to lose again at home. We have to buck that trend and I’m pretty determined to do that.”
They have, indeed, lost five of their last seven games at Castle Park yet, frustratingly, played some wonderful rugby in between the dross, the excellent fly-half Declan Cusack, Sproston and fit-again Paul Jarvis all scoring finely-crafted tries.
Klim’s effort, too, was expertly created by Cusack and finished by the Namibian who – having made two clean breaks in the first period – helped put his side ahead for the first time at 29-27 in the 52nd minute.
“Firstly I’m really gutted as we didn’t get the win,” he said.
“Even though I got man-of-the-match on my debut I prefer to win. I’m pleased but it’s my job to run those lines and make those breaks.
“I have to give credit to the team for finding me with the ball.
“I wasn’t supposed to play initially but I’m grateful to the coach for trusting me with the opportunity and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.
“Lyn Jones was my coach in the Currie Cup back home and Phil Davies was my national coach. My game really improved after they came to Namibia but I’m really enjoying being here now.”
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis; Wilson, Klim, Clark, Lewis; Cusack (Foley 60), James (Foley 60); Bergmanas (List 47), Hunter (Nelson 53), Sproston (Williams 62), Eames, Hicks (Batt 65), Ram, Hills, Hill (Shaw 65).
Bristol: Protheroe (Edwards 16); Lemi, Tovey, Hurrell, Varndell; Sheedy (Searle 60), Uren (Glynn 69); Gosgrove (O’Connell 30), Fenton-Wells (Gompels 29), Faletau (Dawe 77), Batley (Nemsadze 77), Latta , Haining, Graham, Crane.
Referee: K Dickson (RFU).