Doncaster Knights 36 London Scottish 7: Coach Steve Boden sees room for improvement despite first league victory
Rarely can a side score 26 unanswered second half points and still leave its concerned head coach somewhat aggrieved by its performance.
However, that is just how Steve Boden was left feeling after watching his Doncaster Knights side deliver their first win of the Championship season at Castle Park on Saturday.
His mood perhaps betrays just how poor their first half display - error-ridden, sloppy and far too one-paced - was against a limited London Scottish team.
That said, by the time George Edgson, Guido Volpi, Henry Paul and Jack Spittle had run in second half tries to stretch a 10-7 interval advantage to 36-7, there were plenty of signs of how Boden envisaged his squad truly performing in 2021-22.
This was only their second league outing of the campaign and, eventually, there was certainly a marked improvement on what was dished up in their opening-day loss at Coventry.
Nevertheless, he will demand more precision when they head to Bedford Blues on Friday.
“We probably left 20 points on the field in the first half,” said the former Yorkshire Carnegie chief, who led Doncaster to third place last term in his maiden campaign in charge before reshaping his squad again.
“There was just a massive lack of accuracy. Defensively I think it was a big step forward; our physicality and discipline in defence was a lot better and I was really pleased with that.
“With the ball, our lack of respect and patience with it is causing us some trouble as it means we’re having to defend for too long.
“The plan this week was to try and keep the ball a bit more and try to get to six phases but at half-time it looked like the plan was kick the ball as much as possible.
“There was a little re-set in how we were meant to play the game but the second half was 26-0.
“That’s where I think our performance should have been; we weren’t great in the second half.
“But we had better ball control and patience and it opened up a few opportunities.”
Scottish, hammered 47-7 by Jersey Reds in their opener, did not help themselves either; they had two players sin-binned with both proving costly.
Leo Fielding’s high tackle on winger Kyle Evans in first half injury-time not only cost him a yellow card but his side a penalty try.
When hooker Nick Selway followed up with some foul play with his boot in the 64th minute - Scottish having spent considerable time pressing the hosts’ 22 - Knights quickly exposed the numerical disadvantage for No8 Guido Volpi to power over for a third try that ended the contest.
The powerful Volpi, openside Sam Graham and blindside John Kelly formed an impressive back-row that caused Scottish all sorts of problems.
Newly-installed captain Graham made a couple of line-breaks off short balls from forward colleagues, one ploy that did tend to work well.
“They did look dangerous,” conceded Boden.
“We did look dangerous at times. But some of the skill, passing accuracy and ball retention was just unacceptable.
“We defended well but, for a Doncaster side, our set-piece was far too passive.
“And our lack of respect for the ball will cause us problems if we keep doing it.
“We play Bedford on Friday who are lethal off turnover ball; if we disrespect the ball like that we will be in a lot of trouble. We’ll look at it. It’s only our third game (including a friendly).
“We have to enjoy the win as we did get five points but then we have to make sure we come back with an attitude where we look at the performance not just the victory.”
Sam Olver got things going for Doncaster with an early penalty but they had been lax when allowing their opponents to score when under no real threat in the 15th minute.
With nowhere to go, centre Sam Hanks slid a nothing kick through down the left and Volpi had ample time to deal with it but he hesitated and the ball bounced wickedly for Hanks to follow up.
Laurence May converted but his side would not cross again, fly-half Olver coming up with a timely try-saving tackle onpowerful former Scotland full-back Rory Hughes after Brian Tuilagi had been set free down the left touchline. It proved crucial; Doncaster could have been staring at a 14-3 deficit.
Instead, it was Fielding’s illegal attempt to stop a try that led to Knights going 10-7 up just before the interval and they never looked back.
Doncaster Knights: McBryde (Davey 73); Spittle, Edwards (Best 57), Strachan, Evans; Olver, Dolly; Cade (Vaughan 60), Edgson (Roberts 69), Denman (Paul 57), Drake (Davies 57), Peters, Kelly (Hudson 69) , Graham, Volpi.
London Scottish: Hughes (Ferdinand 50); Fielding, Hyde, Hanks, Halaifonua; May, Hoadley; Ellwood, Selway, Rees (Gibson 65), Tyas, Hammond, Jurevicius, Tuilagi (Edevbalo-Ehizode 80), Baldwin.