Doncaster’s third successive league defeat in which they were convincingly overwhelmed by seven tries to three at Castle Park will not have helped their director of rugby Clive Griffiths recover from his recent heart illness.
Griffiths, watching from the stand, is happily much better and recuperating steadily and may return to take charge again in four weeks.
Defeats by Ealing Trailfinders, Nottingham and now Jersey have sent his squad plunging towards the bottom of the league table, but the rot has to be stopped before the Welshman resumes control. Therefore points are essential in the next two Championship games against Bedford and London Irish, both of whom will be difficult to overcome if the many errors witnessed against the Channel Islanders are repeated.
Weak defence, handing the ball over and lost line outs, in strong attacking positions and on their own line, proved decisive as Jersey won far too comfortably in front of Doncaster’s vociferous and proud supporters.
Five of Jersey’s tries were the result of mistakes by the Knights who conceded three before half time and then another four in the second half as the Reds built quickly on their interval lead of 19-10.
While Doncaster were largely lifeless in the opening period, their first try was outstanding. Full back Cameron Cowell set off on a thrilling counter attack, sidestepping opponents and dashing more than 30 yards to score, but after that brilliance little of any substance was produced to deter Jersey.
Often kicking ball away, Doncaster were losing badly 33-10, but, thankfully, they showed signs of some improvement in the second half as possession and territory were gained.
Number eight Josh Tyrell started and finished an aggressive move involving centre Joel Matavesi on 56 minutes, a try that cut the gap to 33-15.
At long last, Doncaster’s forwards managed to keep the ball and towards the end of the second half, winger Dougie Flockhart scored a fine try from a line out, and with Flockhart adding the conversion, the score line of 33-22 did show some respectability.
Shortly afterwards, the Knights nearly achieved a try bonus point.
However,the pass from centre Mat Clark to scrum half Tom James, who was through, was judged to have gone forward.
To make matters far worse, Jersey then proceeded to launch two more profitable attacks as the sixth and seventh tries were scored by full back Augustin Slowik,set up by a 40 yards’ dash by winger Koch Marx, and from number eight Janco Venter, crashing over after Doncaster-again-lost their own line out ball.
After such an embarrassing loss, head coach Glen Kenworthy was inevitably rather glum afterwards.
He said: “We are lost for words. We shot ourselves in the foot and are in a hole.
“At times, Jersey showed more enthusiasm and it’s frustrating because we repeated the mistakes that we identified against Ealing and Nottingham.
“We didn’t look after the ball on the ground and to put on a performance like that at home is really disappointing.”
On a happier note, Doncaster have strengthened the pack with the signing of prop Matty Talese,a New Zealand born forward who’s been playing in France and has appeared for Samoa A.
What is also positive is that centre Will Owen, who has not played since the spring fixture at Bedford last season, is making good progress following two knee operations.
“I’m back in full training and hope to be playing again in two to three weeks.
“I’ve had no reaction in my knee and it’s all going quite well.
“I thought when we got it back to 12-10 after the try and Kurt Morath’s penalty we’d settled down, but we tend to implode and it could have been 33-29 if not for the forward pass.
“It’s been frustrating watching the recent results.”
Doncaster Knights: Cowell, Flockhart, Clark, Matavesi, Lewis (Seniloli 58), Morath (Foley 52), James, Hislop (Williams 46), Hunter (Nelson 62), Quigley (Sproston 52), Challinor, Hicks, Calladine, Hills (Civetta 64), Tyrell.
Jersey Reds: Slowik, Marx, Newey, Best (Herron 58/Best 70), Van Dam, Penberthy (Herron 70) Homer (Waters 63), Godfrey (Morley 38), Maddison (Selway 63), Atalifo (Rodman 63), Sexton, Beckett (Bartle 60), Argyle, Joyce (Venter 76), Venter (Upfield 68).
Referee: John Meredith (RFU).