Doncaster Knights 33 London Welsh 35: Knights show top-six quality

Andy Bulumakau scores a try for Knights. Photo: Sarah Washbourn.
Andy Bulumakau scores a try for Knights. Photo: Sarah Washbourn.

London Welsh made it ten successive wins over Doncaster Knights in the opening Greene King IPA Championship clash at Castle Park.

But the relegated Premiership side couldn’t have any complaints had Knights beaten them for the first time since the 2009-10 season in a thoroughly entertaining encounter.

Knights often lacked a cutting edge on their return to the Championship last season, but that accusation couldn’t be levelled against them at the weekend.

They scored four tries, two of which must be early contenders for the club’s try of the season award, and could have had several more.

Against all but the Championship’s elite, of which the Exiles are one, Knights would have won with something to spare and that is one of a number of positives to take into Sunday’s game at Nottingham. All of last season’s regulars showed up well and newcomers such as wing Will Hurell, who invariably broke the first tackle, and half-backs Declan Cusack and Michael Heaney, all made promising debuts.

Clive Griffiths looks to have put together a squad which has power up front, creativity and organisation at half-back and pace out wide.

Providing they can avoid an injury crisis Knights, for whom prop Richard List had one of his best games for the club, look to have what it takes to challenge for a top six spot.

Certainly the tries scored by speedy centre Andrew Bulumakau, following superb work by full-back Paul Jarvis and Cusack in the 70 metre-move, and the first of flanker Latu Makaafi’s brace – the result of some excellent handling from left to right and back again – would have graced any ground.

But for an impressive debut by fly-half Joe Carlisle and some top quality finishing by centre Guy Armitage – and what a prospect he looks – Welsh would have trailed at the end of a free-flowing first half rather than leading 23-22 .

Armitage’s brilliant hat-trick try on 70 minutes looked to have won the game for Welsh shortly after going down to 14 men.

But a second try from a catch and drive routine, Alex Shaw touching down this time, gave Dougie Flockhart the chance, which he narrowly missed, to level the scores five minutes from time.

Despite his disappointment at the result, Griffiths would probably have settled for a two-point haul pre-match.

Doncaster Knights: Jarvis; Flockhart, Bulumakau, Clark, Hurrell; Cusack, Heaney; List, Hunter, Quigley, Challinor, Phelan, Makaafi, Hills, Stedman. Replacements: Bergmanas, Sprotson, John, Hotson, Shaw, Lewis, Edgerley.

London Welsh: Jewell; Reynolds, Armitage, Barkley, Elder; Carlisle, Rob Lewis;Trevett, Morris, Cooper, McNally,Corker, West, Waters, Murphy.Replacements: Allen, Marfo, Aholelei, Skuse, Hodson Glynn, Thomas.

Referee: Greg McDonald.

Attendance: 1,019.