YORKSHIRE’S three Championship teams, Doncaster Knights, Yorkshire Carnegie and Rotherham Titans, were, unusually, all away from home and returned with precious little or nothing as they all lost.
Doncaster lost by 29-27 at Hartpury College, the league’s newest club; Yorkshire Carnegie were beaten 31-20 by Richmond and the Championship’s bottom side, Rotherham, still without a win in the opening six games, were comfortably outplayed and lost 34-14 at Bedford.
Doncaster, who came back from Gloucestershire with a losing bonus point, remain in third place on 21 points – eight points behind the promotion favourites, Bristol.
Clive Griffiths’s team lost in painful circumstances just before the end.
Leading 27-22 following tries from centre Andy Bulumakau, scrum-half Tom James and prop Colin Quigley, plus five successful goal-kicks from fly-half Simon Humberstone, Doncaster seemed to have the contest won.
However, at the climax, they were penalised at the scrum. In the 79th minute, a powerful drive by Hartpury’s pack set up 19-year-old scrum-half Harry Randall, who grabbed the opportunity to complete his hat-trick, and with fly-half James Williams converting, Doncaster, led by hooker Ben Hunter in his 100th appearance for ther Knights, were deprived of a share of the points.
Frustrating though it was to lose in such a sickening manner, Doncaster suffered only their second defeat in the Championship and can now prepare confidently for their campaign in the British & Irish Cup, starting on Saturday at Castle Park against Leinster A.
Yorkshire Carnegie also travelled home with a bonus point, in their case by scoring four tries at the Athletic Ground, but Richmond still won, having established a strong position at half-time when they led 21-10.
To some extent, first-half tries by locks Jack Whetton and Dan Sanderson kept Carnegie competitive as did a third try by full-back Chris Elder on 43 minutes, but Richmond’s victory was guaranteed in the 69th when captain Will Warden smashed his way over for his team’s fourth try.
Carnegie’s commitment shone, and with Richmond’s indiscipline cutting them to 13 men, flanker Mike Myerscough took advantage to barge across for a fourth try and a bonus point.
When you’re a side who are really battling for that first win, certain things are going to go right and some things aren’t.Rotherham Titans’ head coach, Andy Key
This second defeat drops the Headingley club to fifth on 17 points.
They, too, launch their B & I Cup programme this week. Carnegie are at Jersey Reds on Friday, kicking off at 7.45 at St Peter’s.
Rotherham’s position at the foot of the Championship table with only one point from six games continues to threaten their status which is why coach Andy Key is giving serious consideration to strengthening his squad by signing Premiership players on dual-registered terms.
A start was made with Matt Postlethwaite, a Sale Sharks second-row, who made his debut at Bedford where Rotherham experienced their latest setback by five tries to two.
The Clifton Lane team are seven points behind second from bottom London Scottish and while their defence is the weakest in the Championship with 257 points conceded, the Titans attack shows promising signs.
Winger Jake Henry scored a fine try on 54 minutes and right at the end, hooker Charlie Maddison, was driven over after effective approach work by the pack.
The long-term shoulder injury to scrum-half Rhodri Davies is a major blow to the struggling club.
The Welshman, highly talented, will be missing for several weeks, so Key is urgently trying to find a replacement of a similar standard.
His No 2 scrum-half, the Portuguese Francisco Vieira, still has much to learn, and clearly Rotherham can not resume their survival battle at Clifton Lane against Ealing at the end of this month, with only one No 9.
Possibly, Key will have signed a new scrum-half before Saturday’s home encounter against Connacht A in the B & I Cup.
Key said: “We probably had more territory and possession overall and certainly so in the first half, yet we were 24-0 down.
“You have to give Bedford credit; as soon as they got behind us their cutting edge was better than ours. When you’re a side who are really battling for that first win, certain things are going to go right and some things aren’t. Our attack wasn’t quite as sharp as it needed to be.”