Doncaster Knights .............................10
London Welsh ........................................21
DONCASTER Knights threw away a hard-earned first-half lead when slumping to a 21-10 Championship defeat against London Welsh at Castle Park.
Knights started brightly with Latu Makaafi making an early break and bursting through the visitors’ defence to cross the line only for the referee to rule that the Tongan back-rower had not grounded the ball correctly.
Knights, however, made good use of the territory gained and dominated the resulting scrum until a penalty try was awarded. Full-back David McIlwaine, who has taken over the kicking duties, added the conversion to make it 7-0.
Welsh fly-half Alex Davies hit back with a well-taken long-range penalty and when McIlwaine attempted a penalty of his own from the half-way line soon after it drifted narrowly wide.
Knights defended well and Welsh struggled to find a way through and resorted to the boot to add to their tally as Davies kicked another penalty to narrow the gap to 7-6.
Makaafi was sin-binned close to the half-hour mark but the visitors’ numerical advantage was slashed when their winger Joe Ajuwa was himself yellow-carded for a high challenge on Michael Keating.
McIlwaine landed a further penalty to extend the lead to 10-6 and the game was shaping up to be a tight and attritional encounter as the whistle blew for the break.
The second period produced some good early defensive play by Knights, but they were suddenly exposed after 10 minutes when handling errors gifted a break to Welsh.
Simon Whatling frantically chased his kick towards the line and was judged to have grounded the ball for a try before it rolled into touch. Davies converted to give his side a 13-10 lead.
Knights struggled to regroup and were unable to impose themselves on the line-out. Davies’ replacement Gordon Ross extened the Exiles’ lead to 16-10 with a penalty.
Knights paid the price for their frailties when Welsh created a chance of their own and showcased their passing range, full-back Edd Thrower finishing the move in style. Despite Ross missing the conversion Welsh led by 11 points with only ten minutes remaining.
Knights battled desperately to salvage a losing bonus point, and came close to scoring a second try from repeated scrummaging close to the line.
But despite the sin-binning of two Welsh forwards they were unable to grab the last-gasp points and are left to rue on their inability to claim a win over a side in the top half of the Championship table this season.
Knights: McIlwaine, Flockhart, Goss, Gidlow, Keating (Bateman 61), Luke, Hallam, Davies (Andy Brown 70), Boden (Yeandle 59), Alex Brown, Challinor, Kenworthy (Parsons 67), Makaafi, Farivarz (Boyde 70), Planchant (Noone 61). Unused sub; Audis.