Match report: Moseley 23 Doncaster Knights 38
Doncaster Knights strengthened their grip on second spot in the Championship with a testing victory at bottom side Moseley.
Were Yorkshire Carnegie to come away from London Welsh this weekend empty handed Knights would secure their highest-ever finish at this level with two games to spare.
In completing the double over the Birmingham club, who finished second bottom last season, Knights hammered another nail into Moseley’s relegation coffin.
Just as they did against leaders Bristol five days earlier, Knights posted an early try.
Strong-running Will Hurrell made the initial break following a turnover and fellow centre Mat Clark was on hand to convert it into points just two minutes into the game.
Declan Cusack, who found himself back in the No 15 shirt as a result of recent signing David McIlwaine suffering an ankle injury on his home debut last weekend, added the extras.
Moseley, who went into the game having lost five of their six Championship fixtures since the turn of the year – a run which has left them three points adrift at the foot of the table - drew level on seven minutes.
The Birmingham side moved the ball to their right after capitalising on some sloppy play by Knights at a lineout and wing Kyle Evans touched down near enough for fly-half Charlie Foley to convert to level the scores.
The home side looked all set to take the lead on 16 minutes from a driving maul, but impressive No 8 Chris Brightwell failed to ground the ball cleanly.
Knights’ relief was only short-lived, however, with Foley edging the home side into a 10-7 lead after they had been penalised at a scrum.
Playing with a determination Knights’ boss Clive Griffiths had predicted in the build-up, Moseley continued to dictate the exchanges and it came as no surprise when Foley extended their lead at the start of the second quarter from another penalty.
Yet to find any sort of rhythm, Knights fell further behind a couple of minutes later - Evans crossing for a second try after Brightwell had helped set up the attacking position after breaking down the blindside from a scrum.
Knights had rarely looked like adding to their early try until wing Tyson Lewis raced in for his third in two games just after the half-hour mark following good work by Hurrell and back-rower Glen Young in the build-up
Cusack again added the conversion to leave just four points between the two sides.
Knights got their noses in front again on 36 minutes - Hurrell being rewarded for his role in the first two tries following a ‘show and go’ break by dual-registered fly-half Ollie Bryant which backs’ coach Paul Cooke himself would have been proud of in his prime.
Cusack again tagged on the extras to give his side,who had been second-best for over half of the first period, a 21-18 lead.
Well beaten at Castle Park in November after leading at half-time, Moseley would probably have regained the lead shortly after the restart but for Young denying Evans a hat-trick try.
Cusack put further daylight between the two sides with his first kick at goal with the blustery wind at his back.
Good work by Scrum-half Michael Heaney, who has proved one of the club’s best summer signings, set up the chance for Clark to break the line and then get the better of full-back Mike Penn to claim the bonus-point try. Cusack again tagged on the conversion.
Knights found themselves down to 14 men at the end of of the third quarter when Canadian international second-rower Jon Phelan was sin-binned.
Moseley cashed in just before Phelan was eligible to return to the fray, hooker Adam Caves scoring from a quick tap penalty to cut the deficit to just eight points.
But whilst spirited Moseley never gave up there was to be no grandstand finish and No 8 Alex Shaw’s 80th minute try ensured Doncaster the final word.
Moseley: Penn; Evans, King, Pinches, Watkins; Foley, Brazier; Voisey, Caves, Gardiner, Charlton, Casson, Hone, Keenan, Brightwell. Rep: Warren, Fidler, Tolmie, Siggery, Hughes, McLeanaar, Hudson.
Doncaster Knights: Cusack; Bulumakau, Clark, Hurrell, Lewis; Bryant, Heaney List, Hunter, Pasquali, Challinor, Phelan, Young, Hills,Shaw. Rep: Veikoso, Sproston, Brugnara, Hotson, Cooke, Armitage,Field.