Doncaster Knights 28 Bedford Blues 24: Knights seal highest ever league finish

Mat Clark powers forward against Bedford.
Mat Clark powers forward against Bedford.

High-flying Doncaster Knights secured second spot - their highest ever finish - in their penultimate game of the regular Championship season at Castle Park.

But Knights gave their supporters a few anxious moments along the way before beating Bedford Blues 28-24 to claim their 13th league victory of the season.

With Bedford coming under threat from Jersey to hold on to fourth spot, Knights knew they were in for a tough test.

However, given the fact that the Blues had the worst defensive record of any team outside the bottom four, and had conceded an average 35 points in their previous five league games, confidence was high.

Things didn’t go as planned in the first quarter, though, and an upset was still on the cards at the break as Bedford turned around leading 14-8.

Bedford scored the first of their two first half tries after less than 60 seconds.

Skipper Michael Le Bourgeois broke the Doncaster line about 30 metres out and fly-half Myles Dorrian was up in support to touch down for the fastest try of the season at Castle Park.

Despite an earlier charging run by No 8 Alex Shaw, which took play into the Bedford 22, Knights had to wait until the 13th minute to open their account with a Declan Cusack penalty after Bedford prop Phil Boulton had been sin-binned.

Mat Clark, who again formed a formidable centre partnership with Will Hurrell, pulled off a try-saving tackle after the Blues had broken from deep in their own half, but linking full-back Steffan Jones touched down out wide from the next phase of attack.

Dorrian added the resulting touchline conversion to leave a sluggish-looking Knights trailing 14-3.

Knights knew they couldn’t afford to concede the next try and threw everything at the Blues’ line but got no joy as the visitors continued to defend well until second-rower Matt Challinor powered his way over from close range to score out wide.

The visitors were reduced to 14 men for the second time when open-side prop Tom Williams was sin-binned just before the break.

Knights wasted no time in cashing in, leading try-scorer Latu Makaafi breaking off from a driving maul 15 metres out within two minutes of the restart. Cusack added the extras to give his side the lead (15-14) for the first time.

Bedford found themselves down to 13 men when second-rower Mike Howard was also sin-binned and Doncaster extended their lead to 22-14 with a close-range converted try by Clark.

Dorrian clawed three points back for Bedford with a 54th minute penalty. And Bedford regained the lead while Jon Phelan was in the sin bin when centre Tom Griffiths ran on to a superb pass 25 metres out on 66 minutes before wrong-footing full-back Paul Jarvis.

Replacement Jake Sharp added the extras to put his side two points ahead but a brace of Cusack penalties ultimately sealed their fate.