DONCASTER Knights finished strongly to claim the spoils against visiting Plymouth Albion in a key Championship promotion battle at Castle Park.
Knights’ director of rugby, Lynn Howells, reverted to a tried and trusted format after giving almost all of his squad a run in the club’s two British and Irish Cup games over the previous fortnight.
Influential Steve McColl returned at full-back, Dougie Flockhart reclaimed his place on the right wing and scrum-half Nathan Jones returned after injury.
In the pack, skipper Steve Lawrie returned at hooker, Stuart Corsar came in for the injured Dan Frazier at prop and, in the back-row both Ed Jackson and Neil Cochrane returned after injury.
Knights went into the lead in the opening minute with a penalty by fly half Tristan Roberts who, a couple of minutes later, scored his seventh try of the season.
Plymouth failed for clear his attacking chip ahead and he was on hand to gather the loose ball and dive over. His conversion put Knights ahead by 10-0 up after less than five minutes played.
But if Knights thought that Plymouth were going to be a pushover, however, the visitors had other ideas as their flanker Rory Watts-Jones dodged his way through some poor Knights’ defence to race over only a couple of minutes later to score his side’s opening try, converted by fly-half Alex Davies.
Although Knights returned to the attack they were unable to breach Plymouth’s resolute defence and the visitors gradually came more into the game.
Such was the supremacy of the respective defences, the only further scoring in the rest of the half came from penalties - two each by Roberts and Davies.
Plymouth started well in the second half and they had several scoring opportunities, mainly originating from Knights’ mistakes.
But to their credit, Knights’ scramble defence worked well and they managed to keep the visitors out.
Knights lost centre PJ Gidlow to the sin bin on 53 minutes after he had stopped Plymouth’s Canadian international No 8 Aaron Carpenter dead in his tracks with a crashing tackle only to blot his copybook by offending at the resulting ruck.
Davies kicked the resulting penalty to level the scores at 16-all.
Knights managed to survive their period of being a man short without conceding another try, though some excellent defensive work,
But they were still on the defensive when Andy Wright came on for Gidlow when his sin bin period finished.
After surviving what seemed a long onslaught on their own line from lineouts and driving mauls from the Plymouth pack, Knights managed to turnover possession and they moved it along their goal line to Wright who raced through the Albion defence on a thrilling 80 metre run which was only stopped inside the visitor’s 22.
The run lifted Knights’ spirits and, with Roberts, who kicked a penalty when Plymouth offended, calling the shots, it was all Knights at this stage of the game.
They extended their lead when Wright crashed over from close in. Although Roberts missed the conversion, he extended Knights lead to 11 points with a penalty from in front of the posts with the final kick of the game.
Plymouth were left to face the long journey home wondering how they did not come away with at least a bonus point after being in contention for so long.
Doncaster Knights: McColl, Flockhart, Briers, Gidlow (Wright 66), Williams, Roberts, Jones, Corsar (Thiede 66), Lawrie (Boden 56), Cusack, Kenworthy, Parsons (Challinor 50), Farivarz (Makaafi 45), Jackson, Cochrane Re placements not used: Hampson, Goss.
Plymouth Albion: Hallett (McLoughlin 46), Mercer, Fisilau, Tuipulotu, Mitchell, Davies, Kessell (Cushion 77), Porter, Evans, Hopkins (Morton 78), Collier (Sprangle 78), Skelding (Copeland 77), Stephen, Carpenter, Watts-Jones Replacements not used: Johns, Freestone.