London Irish 49 Doncaster Knights 12: Championship leaders too strong for Knights
Doncaster Knights became the latest side to leave the Madejski Stadium empty-handed when going down 49-12 against league leaders London Irish.
Knights went into the game knowing that they had given the Exiles a run for their money at Castle Park earlier in the season and buoyed by a morale-boosting win over fourth-placed Bedford Blues in their previous game.
Irish knew they couldn’t afford to lose for the second successive game if they were to avoid giving second-placed Ealing fresh hope during the run-in and were quick out of the blocks.
Both Tyson Lewis and Curtis Wilson were called upon to make try-saving tackles on their respective wings in the first six minutes.
Knights weathered the early storm but found it difficult to make much of an impression on the Irish defence – despite some good handling at times.
It wasn’t until late in the first quarter that they breached the Irish 22 thanks to a strong run by flanker Ollie Stedman who then took the wrong option by trying to find Wilson with a blind offload and the chance of a confidence-boosting score was lost.
But given the Exiles firepower Knights had every reason to be delighted to start the second quarter still on level terms.
That situation changed in the 22nd minute when centre Tom Stephenson cut between two defenders inside the Doncaster 22 to score.
Irish were in again a couple of minutes later though the touchdown wasn’t as clear cut. Fly-half Ian Keatley again added the extras to leave Knights trailing 14-0.
Knights got themselves back into the game at 14-7 when recent signing Charlie Beech celebrated his starting debut with a close-range try goaled by Kurt Morath.
But tries either side of the break saw Irish open up a 21-7 lead.
Flying wing Ben Loader, whose pace caused the visitors problems all afternoon, raced in for a third converted try on the stroke of half-time.
He would have had a second within a couple of minutes of the restart but for another tremendous tackle to Lewis prior to his side bagging a bonus-point try from a driving maul.
Stephenson and Keatley added further tries to open up a 42-7 lead as Irish continued to dominate the second half.
Knights stuck to their task, however, and Stedman capped a solid game when touching down out wide from Morath’s long pass after Joe Sproston had gone close.
Barney Maddison grabbed the last Irish try on 79 minutes but Knights would have had the last word had Wilson been able to capitalise on a clever kick by Morath over the line.
Knights: Jarvis, Wilson, Clark, Hayes, Lewis, Morath, Polataivao; Hislop, Hunter, Beech, Civetta, Hicks, Stedman, Hills, Tyrell. Rep: Malcolm, List, Eames, Sproston, Seniloli, Lomidze, Cowell.