Report: Doncaster Knights 20 Canada 16
Doncaster Knights maintained their 100 per cent record against international opposition when beating Canada 20-16 at windswept Castle Park.
The Championship club, who beat Holland in a little-remembered friendly at the same venue in the 1970s, were always ahead but could never afford to relax against the Canucks in the first game of their three-match tour.
With Dougie Flockhart pulling out with a slight niggle, full-back Paul Jarvis switched to the wing, where he started his career, with former Rotherham favourite Sean Scanlon donning the No 15 shirt.
Flockhart was one of several regulars from last season missing through injury or illness and the club’s 26-man squad included several dual-registered players and trialists.
The tourists, who included a dozen or so players to have played at international level, suffered an early blow when flanker Oliver Nott was stretchered off following a nasty collision with a team-mate,
Knights opened the scoring on seven minutes when fly-half Simon Humberstone, who missed large chunks of his debut season at Castle Park through injury, produced a neat chip kick to the corner for wing Tyson Lewis to score from close range.
Scrum-half Gordon McRorie, who proved a handful all afternoon, clawed back three points with a 14thminute penalty.
The visitors came close to taking the lead three minutes later after No 8 Admir Cejvanovic intercepted a pass on the halfway line and managed to fling out a pass to wing Kyle Baillie after being overhauled ten metres out by Humberstone.
Doncaster opened up a 10-3 lead on 27 minutes, hooker Ben Hunter racing in unopposed down theblindside from a well-executed move from a lineout.
With both defences on top, it came as no surprise when McRorie again opted to kick for goal as against position from a 33rd minute penalty to make it 10-6.
Knights dominated the territorial exchanges in the third quarter but rarely looked like turning pressure into points.
Down to 14 men at the time, Canada cut the deficit on 65 minutes when McRorie – whose break from deep inside his own half had helped create the position – kicked his third penalty from 30 metres out to make it 10-9.
Perhaps reflecting the fact that the Canadian defence had proved tough to crack in the second half, Declan Cusack – who had replaced Humberstone after the break – elected to kick for goal on 68 minutes rather than set-up a catch and drive ploy so successfully employed last season.
Knights looked to have put the game beyond Canada when second-rower Glen Young hacked on a loose ball to score a 74th minute try goaled by Cusack to make it 20-9.
But Canada set up a grandstand finish with a late converted try of their own by Lucas Albornoz.
That was as close as they got, however, and Knights came close to a fourth try at the death.
Not always the spectacle the crowd, which included former No 8 Ollie Stedman and former backs’ coach Paul Cooke would have wished for, but a good work-out for the Knights ahead of their final warm-up game this weekend and a morale-boosting win.