Doncaster Knights ....................41
DONCASTER Knights booked their place in the Championship Promotion Play-Offs with a 41-24 win over Esher at Castle Park.
With fly-half Tom Luke (shoulder) and centre PJ Gidlow (knee) both going under the knife earlier in the week, and full-back David McIlwaine also ruled out, Knights’ boss Brett Davey was forced to ring the changes.
Fortunately, he was able to call upon fly-half Mike Whitehead after three months on the sidelines with a hand injury, and the former Rotherham favourite did all that could be reasonably expected of him before being replaced in the final quarter.
The centre pairing of Fred Burdon and Oli Goss both showed up well as did winger Dougie Flockhart.
He switched from wing to full-back to good effect, scoring a hat-trick against the club he played for before joining the South Yorkshire side.
Knights took a deserved lead on nine minutes when back-rower Andy Boyde touched down from a forward drive near enough for Flockhart to convert.
The visitors capitalised on a rare attacking sortie to open their account with a penalty by back-rower Peter Synnott.
After Knights forwards had helped them lay siege to the Esher line, they were awarded a penalty try which Flockhart converted to make it 14-3.
Threatening Esher centre Phil McKenzie created the position from which he scored in the corner from fly-half Mark Atkinson’s clever chip kick. Synnott added the touchline conversion.
Esher went ahead on 29 minutes. Whitehead misjudged the strength of a grubber-kick by centre Tom Cheesman and wing Geoff Griffiths just got a touch to the ball before it did so. Synnott again added the extras to put his side 17-14 ahead.
Knights hit back when a good run down the left by back-rower Zack Farivarz, created the position from which Knights moved the ball to the right where Flockhart bumped off a defender out wide and raced to line for a try he also converted to give his side a 21-17 lead. He also kicked a penalty just before the break to make it 24-17.
Flockhart effectively put paid to any hopes Esher may have entertained of a second win of the season with a second try on 65 minutes. Knights increased their lead on 75 minutes after second-rower Dom Parsons intercepted a pass about 40 metres out, and after juggling the ball, ran on before sending Irish wing Michael Keating over for an unconverted try.
Esher hit back with a converted try on 79 minutes.
But Knights had the final word, debutant half-back Gareth Quinn-McDonogh instigating the move which set up Flockhart’s third try, which he again converted.
Knights: Flockhart, Toft, Goss, Burdon, Keating, Whitehead (Quinn-McDonogh 66), Hallam (Healey 72), Andy Brown (Burke-Flynn 66), Boden (Yeandle 58), Alex Brown, Boyde (Kettle (58) Farivarz (Planchant 58) Noone. Unused replacement: Francis.
Referee: Steven Lee.