Relentless Doncaster Knights produce stunning win over promotion favourites Ealing Trailfinders
Loud celebrations began at Castle Park within minutes of a famous and memorable win against the Championship’s top team and the leading candidate to earn promotion to the Premiership.
A 22-5 victory was one of the outstanding performances in Doncaster’s history and, by far, the team’s best display this season.
Ealing have spent several million pounds on assembling a squad and support staff capable of competing in the Premiership which they may reach at the end of this campaign, but money can not buy the relentless commitment and vivid team spirit which burst through each of Doncaster’s players who participated in this remarkable victory by three tries to one.
It promised to be a special occasion as early as the third minute when winger Maliq Holden, sent on his way from a pass by flanker Sam Graham, sprinted up the touchline to score, and with fly-half Sam Olver converting, the Knights began brilliantly in the Arctic weather and gale force winds.
Ten minutes later, Doncaster, mastering the conditions with much more skill than Ealing, increased their lead to 10-0 following Olver’s penalty.
As the second half developed, Ealing, with the wind behind them, started to gain territory and possession but Doncaster’s defence in their own 22 was unbending, and with little ball to attack, they needed to exploit rare scoring opportunities.
The turning point came on 61 minutes as Doncaster’s super pack, Thom Smith excelling again, pinched Ealing’s ball, and Trailfinders were then penalised setting up a Doncaster lineout.
The Knights’ forwards smashed ferociously into their opponents and grabbed a 15-0 lead, stretched to 17-0 by Olver’s conversion. Their second try by hooker George Edgson in the 65th gave him particular pleasure:
“It’s great to score against your old club,” said Edgson. “This win is one of the best of my career. All the things which are uncoachable we were good at - desire, work rate and staying in the fight.
“We’d talked all week about channelling our energy into winning the game from the start and it’s amazing when you do that what can happen.
“We deserved what we got against Ealing.”
Doncaster’s defence was broken only once decisively, by flanker Simon Ozokwe, scoring on 68 minutes, so the Knights still had time to take their superiority to another level.
In a thrilling counter attack in the 74th minute as Ealing raided deeply, winger Jack Spittle intercepted the ball, ran 50 metres and then passed to full-back Billy McBryde in support.
The Welshman dashed more or less the same distance, finishing stylishly to confirm an astonishing victory that delighted coach Steve Boden.
“I’m ecstatic and over the moon,” said Boden. “We played the conditions far better and were smart because we knew what the forecast was and trained accordingly. We kept the ball well, our defending was terrific and we gave our all.”
Doncaster’s next big challenge in the Championship is on Sunday at Cornish Pirates, third on 28 points, two clear of the Knights who remain fourth.
Doncaster Knights: McBryde, Spittle, Best (Davey 78), Strachan, Maliq, Olver, Dolly (Wheeldon 79), Davidson (List 78), Edgson (Roberts 78), Denman (Foster 57), Kelly (Drake 79), Murphy (Peters 65), Davies (Hudson 67), Graham, Smith.
Ealing Trailfinders: Johnston, Cordy-Redden, Bodilly, Bird-Tulloch, Daniels, Shingler (Willis 55), Hampson, Gibbons (Smith 41), Malton (Campher 41), Thiede (Whyte 67), De Wee, Cannon (Massyn 65), Northcote-Green, Uzokwe, Smid (Linsell 19).
Referee: I Tempest