'We had grit, heart and desire in abundance' - Doncaster Knights again topple promotion favourites Ealing Trailfinders

Doncaster Knights, their battle-plan thoroughly prepared and then successfully executed, triumphed for a second time this season against the team which began the Championship campaign as the favourites to win promotion to the Premiership.

By Guy Williams
Monday, 28th February 2022, 6:00 am
Sam Olver in action against Ealing Trailfinders earlier in the season. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTD
Sam Olver in action against Ealing Trailfinders earlier in the season. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTD

Doncaster’s outstanding performance and 25-17 victory at Vallis Way, without doubt one of the best in the club’s contemporary history, was highly significant.

Not only did it maintain their lead at the top of the league but also prevented Ealing Trailfinders earning a losing bonus point.

In such a close contest to gain promotion – as well as Doncaster and Ealing, Cornish Pirates and Jersey Reds are also contenders – small margins may matter most.

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Knights now have two games remaining next month against Pirates at Castle Park followed by Nottingham away but the London side have the advantage of still needing to play four against London Scottish, Ampthill, Pirates and Richmond.

In a tense encounter, well attended by dozens of Doncaster’s proud and enthusiastic supporters, the Knights showed more hunger and energy combined with relentless commitment, not least by the forwards, among whom the back five of John Kelly, Ben Murphy, Sam Hudson, Sam Graham and Thom Smith played with impressive authority.

During an entertaining clash, Doncaster led 17-7 at the interval after skilfully creating two tries on 12 and 39 minutes for winger Maliq Holden who, apart from taking his opportunities smartly, also defended courageously.

With fly-half Sam Olver kicking two conversions and penalties on 30 and 47 minutes, Doncaster led 20-12.

Having controlled much of the first half, they had to defend solidly as Ealing recovered, adding to a try by full-back David Johnston.

As Ealing at last played approaching their potential, Doncaster’s resistance rose to the challenge.

Although Ealing’s best forward, Rayn Smid, barged over on 74 minutes, cutting Doncaster’s lead to 20-17, any hope they had of snatching a late win was ruined in dramatic style soon after Smid’s try.

As Ealing attacked Doncaster’s line again, full-back Bill McBryde intercepted a pass and instantly sprinted more than 70 metres to the opposition line for the match-winning score.

“I’m thrilled to bits,” said McBryde.

“We played with a lot of confidence. This is a hell of a result for us, and I can’t speak highly enough of our forwards,” said McBryde.

The Welshman’s delight was shared by coach Steve Boden, who was ecstatic with the team’s result and performance.

“They were brilliant,” he said. “We had emotion, physicality, energy and work rate.

“The boys delivered. We had grit, heart and desire in abundance and didn’t get flustered in the moments of high pressure.”

Ealing: Johnston, Daniels (Kelleher 55), Bodilly, Howard, Kernohan, Willis, Hampson, Davis (Whyte 52), Campher (Malton 53), Thiede, De Wee, Cannon (Maddison 52), Linsell, Northcote-Green, Smid.

Knights: McBryde, Evans, Margetts (Edwards 67), Best, Holden, Olver, Dolly, Davidson, Edgson (Roberts 61), Foster, Kelly (Oetwers 69), Murphy, Hudson (Volpi 63), Graham, Smith (Davies 72).

Referee: Hamish Smales.