Doncaster Knights edged out in tight affair at Ampthill
Doncaster Knights featured in another dramatic finish to a Championship game on their first-ever visit to Ampthill’s Dillingham Park ground.
But whereas their late rally against visiting Nottingham a week earlier had secured them a much-needed victory, they had to settle for two bonus points as promoted Ampthill held out to claim a 30-26 win which cemented sixth spot.
Defeat left Knights still looking for back-to-back victories ahead of the visit of London Scottish which will mark the halfway point of the Championship campaign.
Knights’ cause wasn’t helped by first-half injuries to wing Howard Packham and strong-running back-rower Ollie Stedman who was stretchered off.
But even the loss of two key players couldn’t paper over the cracks in a disappointing first half display and Knights were arguably lucky to be only nine points adrift at the break.
Knights played much better in the second half and in addition to the three tries they scored they were twice held up over the line, but in the final analysis two quickly-taken tries by the home side left them with just too much ground to make up in the final stages.
Knights made a promising start only to fall behind against the run of play after five minutes when flanker Joe Bercis touched down for an unconverted try following some neat handling.
A second followed on 14 minutes and with fly-half Neil Grimoldby converting two penalties Knights trailed by 16-0 with half-time approaching.
Knights had been their own worst enemies at times when finding themselves in a good attacking position – not least when a stray pass Tom Calladine to Bercis from an attacking lineout in the A’s 22 almost resulted in a try at the other end.
But they finally managed to turn pressure into points on 37 minutes when hooker Ben Hunter touched down from a driving maul and Olver added the extras to cut the deficit to 16-7.
Knights started the second half well and cut deficit to just two points afterTom James and Kyle Evans combined to give wing Tyson Lewis the chance to touch down for a second converted try.
Knights continued to enjoy the better of the exchanges and it was against the run of play when Jarryd Sage exploited a gap inside the 22. Worse was to follow with Bercis securing his side a try bonus point on the hour from a catch-and-drive ploy.
Trailing 30-14 with around ten minutes to go Knights looked to be heading home empty-handed.
But their spirits rose after centre Jack Roberts touched down on 75 minutes.
When Rory Pitman put Evans over for his first try in Doncaster colours four minutes later the scene was set for another nail-biting finish which could have produced another stoppage-time win for Knights had they not lost a crucial lineout deep in Ampthill’s half.
Knights: Cowell, Packman, Hayes, Foley, Lewis, Olver, James; Hislop, Hunter, Quigley, Eames Challinor, Calladine, Conradie, Stedman Replacements: Edgson, Foster, Sproston, Pitman, Lokotui, Pocklington, Evans, Roberts.