Doncaster Knights 14 Nottingham 19: Knights suffer Championship Cup exit

Tom James holds off his man.
Tom James holds off his man.

Armthorpe brass band hit all the right notes when entertaining several hundred pre-match diners at Castle Park with a selection of popular carols.

Sadly, not so Doncaster Knights in their Championship Cup Pool 1 decider against visiting Nottingham.

Despite turning out in a specially designed festive kit there was little Christmas cheer for the hardy souls who braved the elements.

Knights went down 19-14 and bowed out of the competition as the Green and Whites pipped them for third spot, and qualification for the quarter-finals, courtesy of having scored more tries in their six games.

It was a disappointing end to a campaign, which the club hoped would help revive their flagging Championship season, which had started so well.

Hopes had been high in the build-up that Knights could end a run of three successive defeats and boost confidence ahead of their return to league rugby with a relegation battle against Yorkshire Carnegie.

But it didn’t turn out that way despite a strong finish.

They got off to the worst possible start by gifting the visitors a second-minute try – though credit Green and Whites’ scrum-half Murray McConnell’s quick thinking.

Samoan international back-rower Josh Tyrell was tackled just short but, soon after, Knights were awarded a penalty try.

Despite playing with the bitterly cold wind at their backs, Knights lost the first half territorial battle and were often second best to a lively Nottingham outfit.

They also lost two forwards, No 8 Rory Pitman, and fellow back-rower Michael Hills, both sin-binned during the second quarter during which the visitors struck twice through close-range tries by prop Osin Heffernan and centre Alex Goble to claim a 19-7 interval lead.

Knights continued to find themselves penned in their own half for much of the third quarter and rarely looked liked reducing the deficit.

But the atmosphere changed once replacement prop Joe Sproston touched down from a 64th minute forward drive and fly-half Charlie Foley added the extras.

Knights dominated the proceedings from that point and the visitors breathed a collective sigh of relief when Sproston conceded a needless penalty five metres from their line.

But there was to be no early Christmas present for the Doncaster supporters as Nottingham held out for their first away win in the competition.

To add to their worries both Tyrell and Pitman picked up second half knocks.

Knights: Cowell, Wilson, Hayes, Owen, Jarvis, Foley, James, Hislop, Hunter, Quigley, Challinor, Eames, Tyrell, Hills, Pitman. Rep: Malcolm, List, Sproston, Ryan, Jones, Seniloli, Creed.