Doncaster Knights begin Championship Cup campaign with 44-22 win over Hartpury
Doncaster Knights got their Championship Cup Pool 2 campaign off to a winning start when beating Hartpury 44-22 at sun-kissed Castle Park.
Although Knights scored six tries and picked up a bonus point there was still room for improvement in attack.
Likewise, they will be pleased with some aspects of their defensive efforts and disappointed with others in the build-up to tries.
Knights got off to a flying start with centre Pete Lucock celebrating his first competitive game for the club when touching down for a first minute try from a charge down on the edge of the Hartpury 22.
Half-back Sam Olver added the extras as well as an early penalty to give Knights, well led by the likes of Matt Challinor and Rory Pitman, a 10-0 lead.
When long-serving wing Tyson Lewis, who looks to have lost none of his pace, rounded off some good handling just outside the Hartpury 22 when racing past several defenders to score a second converted try, Knights led 17-3 and looked set to run away with the game.
But it didn’t turn out that way and the visitors, who only avoided relegation to National League One last season, hit back with two tries to close the gap to 17-15 prior to Olver knocking over a penalty with the last kick of the half.
The first of their two tries was arguably the best of the game.
Showing a willingness to keep the ball alive they worked the ball out to their left flank around half way where Luke Eves - who formed a strong centre pairing with Joe Margetts - broke clear and held off the cover.
The second, following the sin-binning of second-rower Matt Smith – another former Headingley favourite making his Doncaster debut – came after several minutes of forward pressure on the home line.
The 20-15 interval score line reflected a closely-fought first half and it looked too close to call at the start of the second. But Knights’ extra fitness and class eventually told and they ran out worthy winners.
Knights scored the all-important first try after the interval. Prop Robin Hislop broke the line just outside the Hartpury 22 on 53 minutes and the supporting Tom James had too much pace for the cover.
Pitman then combined with Marc Thomas to give Smith the chance to scramble over the line for a converted try which made it 32-15.
Wing Curtis Wilson latched on to a loose ball and kicked ahead before regathering at pace and sprinting away from his marker.
Morgan Eames, one of several replacements to catch the eye, crossed for a close-range try on the other flank.
Hartpury had the final word with second-rower Tom Jubb sprinting like a back on a long run down the right flank before cutting inside Charlie Foley to score a late converted try.
Knights: McColl, Wilson, Hayes, Lucock, Lewis, Olver, James; Hislop, Hunter, Foster, Challinor, Smith, Stedman, Jones, Pitman. Rep: Edgson, Thomas, Quigley, Eames, Hills, Pocklington Foley, Evans