Knights left with sense of injustice as they pledge to be ready for Irish again

THE good news for Doncaster Knights is they get another shot at this '“ two more, in fact.

Doncasters David Nelson is held up by London Irish (Picture:: Scott Merrylees).

Having lost 22-5 to London Irish in Saturday’s last regular Championship fixture, it would be easy to suggest there will be only one outcome when they meet again over the forthcoming two-legged play-off semi-finals.

Leaders Irish, having won 19 of their 20 league games since relegation, are certainly clear favourites to earn promotion.

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However, Doncaster, who were already secure in fourth, caused them genuine problems in the first half at Castle Park only to routinely waste good opportunities with either poor decision-making or execution.

Doncasters David Nelson is held up by London Irish (Picture:: Scott Merrylees).

They only trailed 8-0 at the break after winger Alex Lewington scythed through on a nice angle with the last play of the half but it was the only time the hosts had been truly threatened.

Instead, two tries inside four minutes at the start of the second period proved critical as their scrum was twice dismantled.

The first led to a penalty from which Irish’s driving maul was hauled down by Ben Hunter, the hooker conceding a penalty try and being yellow-carded, too.

Tommy Bell added the extras and then Irish shoved Doncaster’s seven-man scrum off their own ball for Aseli Tikoirotuma to break, Brendan McKibbin supporting for the converted try.

Doncasters David Nelson is held up by London Irish (Picture:: Scott Merrylees).

Knights rallied hard but, even when Irish were down to 13 men with yellow cards to Bell, for a reckless shoulder charge that saw Andy Bulumakau stretchered off, and Tikoirotuma, for a late tackle, their precision let them down.

Winger Tyson Lewis ignored a three-man overlap and was tackled but the competition’s leading scorer did scamper in with the last play for his 14th league try.

Director of rugby Clive Griffiths admitted: “I don’t know how much possession we squandered in that first half and we came up with some wrong plays as well.

“We did everything we could to ask questions – we got in behind them. They got away with some stuff we probably wouldn’t get away with and there was the killer blow at half-time.

“It wasn’t all over, though, and I said if we don’t squander possession we’ll ask more questions. But they scored early doors, we kicked straight into touch and suddenly it’s 22-0…

“You saw our DNA though of never giving in and I’d be absolutely horrified if we’d been nilled today with the chances we had.

“We’ll take a lot out of the game. We can play a lot better than that with ball in hand and ask more questions.

“With the penalty try, it’s the third week in a row the official has run to the posts and given us a yellow card. But, when we get that all we get is a penalty; we don’t get a penalty try. It’s still unacceptable from our point of view, though. That’s three games on the trot we’ve been down to 14 men.

“We’ve put pressure on ourselves and got away with it versus (Yorkshire) Carnegie but not down at (Cornish) Pirates or today. That has to be addressed.”

Doncaster, who reached the final last term, host Irish on Sunday, April 30 before the away trip on Saturday, May 6. Centre Mat Clark hopes to be back from injury along with flanker Jack Ram plus the rested Paul Jarvis while Bulumakau and captain Michael Hills (ankle) should be fit, too.

Doncaster Knights: Scanlon; Flockhart, Bulumakau (Humberstone 64), Hayes, Lewis; Cusack, Heaney (Edgerley 60); List (Bergmanas 52), Hunter, Sprotson (Quigley 52), Challinor (Williams 54), Young, Shaw (Nelson 46), Hills (Makaafi 57), Carpenter.

London Irish: Bell; Lewington, Tikoirotuma, Brophy (Ojo 66), Cokanasiga; Tonks (Court 57), McKibbin (Steele 56); Hobbs-Awoyemi (Court 57), Paice (Porecki 61), Franks (Hoskins 68), De Chaves, Sinclair (Lloyd 66), Coman, Cowan (Gilsenan 61), Treviranus.

Referee: A Jackson (RFU).