Doncaster Knights prepare for biggest game in recent history

With three games remaining, including what is likely to be the promotion decider at Ealing Trailfinders on Saturday, Doncaster Knights remain top of the Championship.

By Guy Williams
Monday, 21st February 2022, 5:00 am
Sam Olver
Sam Olver

Steve Boden’s men edged past Hartpury 11-10 at the weekend thanks to another late show.

They have three more points than second-placed Ealing but the Londoners have the advantage of two games in hand.

As Doncaster prepare for the most important match in their recent history, the coaches and the players understand fully that a far better performance will be required than the one produced at Castle Park against an unlucky Hartpury team who for much of the contest were the better side.

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The wet and mud ensured a game in which both teams kicked endlessly, often without profit, and as a hard and close tussle reached its climax with the Gloucestershire club leading 10-8, it proved inevitable that the result would be decided by the boot.

In a dramatic and tense finale, Doncaster were awarded a penalty to win the match in the last minute, much to the disbelief and anger of the visitors who had controlled almost all of the second half after a try by winger Ben Foley and a conversion and penalty from fly-half James Williams.

With so much at stake, there are few more accurate goal kickers than Knights’ fly half, Sam Olver, who had already put over a penalty but had failed to convert the try by winger Kyle Evans.

However, when it mattered most, Olver’s kick was spot on and guaranteed a one-point victory but, crucially, four league points in such a thrilling promotion race.

“Yes, it was a nail-biting finish and in these sorts of conditions you’ve just got to handle the nerves because the ticker gets going,” admitted Olver.

“It was always going to be a one score game because of the weather.

“Looking ahead to Ealing, our performance wasn’t good enough and needs to go up another level.

“It’s an exciting challenge down there and a tough place to play because of the quality of their players but we take confidence from being top of the Championship and beating them here (22-5) in November.

“We’ve got ourselves in a good position with three games left, so 15 points are up for grabs, and judging by the celebrations at the end you can tell how close we are as a group.”

That team spirit will not only be tested fully on Saturday against Ealing,but also in the two remaining games next month against Cornish Pirates at Castle Park and finally against Nottingham away.

Knights: McBryde (Davey 71), Evans, Margetts, Best (Strachan 62), Holden, Olver, Green (Dolly 66), Davidson, Edgson (Roberts 66), Foster (Connolly 68), Kelly, Davies (Peters 62), Volpi (Murphy 68), Graham, Smith.

Hartpury: Thomas, B Foley, C Foley, Tovey, Smith (Gleeson 29), Williams, Lennon, Holsey, Hunt (Capon 12), Lemon, Jordan, Gray, Hastings (Dun 68), Hastings (Robinson 66), Mitchell (Ward 71).

Referee: Joe James.