Ealing Trailfinders 33 Doncaster Knights 24: Plenty of positives in valiant defeat for Griffiths’ men
There was honour in defeat but, sadly, no points for Doncaster Knights away to high-flying Championship rivals Ealing at Vallis Way.
Ealing came from behind in the final quarter to post a flattering 33-24 win over the seventh-placed Knights on a ground where they remain unbeaten since September.
But despite suffering their first defeat of 2019, Knights will take a lot positives into forthcoming games against other top-four sides.
They will certainly consider themselves unlucky to finish empty handed against Ealing for the second time this season in a game viewed as their toughest test do date.
Showing four enforced changes to the side which beat Richmond 34-7 a fortnight earlier, Knights got off to the worst possible start and trailed 14-0 after as many minutes.
The first of Ealing’s first-half tries came on five minutes when No 8 Kieran Murphy got the better of two defenders after the visiting pack, which showed up well all afternoon, had successfully defended a driving maul.
After bombing another chance following a run by full-back Peter Lydon into the 22 - though credit the part played by recalled wing Curtis Wilson - Ealing struck again through wing James Cordy-Redden.
Some of those Knights’ supporters who made the long trip down to west London may possibly have feared the worst at that stage on a ground where the home side inflicted Doncaster’s biggest defeat of last season.
But, showing the character which had earned them three successive league wins, Knights started to impose themselves on the game and hooker Mike Mayhew celebrated his first start for the club when touching down from a driving maul at the start of the second quarter.
Knights drew level with another converted try by No 8 Rory Pitman following another driving maul.
Knights stunned the home crowd shortly before the interval when leading try-scorer Tom James touched down from a move inside the Ealing 22. Kurt Morath again tagged on the extras to secure his side a 21-14 interval lead.
Ealing had the better of the exchanges at the start of the second half in the worsening conditions and drew level on 47 minutes when Murphy touched down for his second close-range try.
Knights came more into the game as an attacking force at the start of the final quarter and both centre Elliott Creed and Wilson went close.
They didn’t come away empty-handed, however, and Morath kicked them into a 24-21 lead with a 67th minute penalty.
But their joy quickly turned into disappointment as Ealing regained the lead three minutes later with a well-worked bonus point try.
Just when it was looking as though Knights would go away with at least a losing bonus point, Ealing’s Ryan Smid crossed for a fifth try five minutes from time.
Knights rallied but Ealing held out.
Knights: Cowell, Wilson, Creed, Hayes, Lewis, Morath, James; Hislop, Mayhew, Sproston, Challinor, Tyrell, Stedman, Calladine, Pitman.
Replacements: Malcolm, List ,Talase, Lomidize, Jones, Seniloli, Foley