DONCASTER Knights completed their pre-season friendlies on an unbeaten note with a hard-fought 13-10 victory away against Welsh Premiership side Bedwas in poor weather conditions.
Knights travelled to Wales with five backs injured including three centres which meant that Tongan flanker Latu Makaafi had to step in at No 12.
Director of Rugby, Brett Davey, as he had done in the previous two friendlies, gave all the fit members of his squad a game.
Former Knights’ favourite Simon Grainger has just joined Bedwas but he failed a fitness test on his injured arm and was thus denied the opportunity the face some of his old teammates.
Knights soon put their hosts under pressure and pinned them down inside their own half.
However. they could not turn possession into points and their only real scoring opportunity came when a long range penalty attempt by fly-half Mike Whitehead drifted just wide.
The first try came after 23 minutes and was totally against the run of play. A Knights attack broke down just in front of the Bedwas posts and the ball was fly-hacked the length of the field with the home side’s Ross Wardell just beating covering Doncaster full-back David Mcilwaine for the touchdown. Mike Powell’s simple conversion put the Welshman into an undeserved lead and this only served to spur the Knights into greater effort.
With 30 minutes gone, after the Knights pack had laid siege to the Bedwas line, lock Matt Challinor crashed over from close range wide out.
Just before half time Doncaster prop Tom Davies and No 8 Chris Planchant were both forced to leave the field with worrying shoulder injuries and they were replaced by Andy Brown and Mick Noone respectively.
As pre-planned at the interval the Knights brought on all of their remaining replacements as the rain that had started just before the interval became a lot heavier. The deteriorating weather conditions hampered Knights’ attacking intention as they again pinned their hosts inside their own half.
Eventually Knights pressure paid off and after 60 minutes they scored a classic training ground try.
They broke down the blind-side through scrum-half Lee Autis and he drew the first defender before passing to the supporting Mcilwaine who gave an inch-pefect pass to put right winger Michael Bateman on a clear run in for a try.
With 70 minutes gone the game went to uncontested scrums due to injuries to the Bedwas props but still the Knights attacked and they could have scored two further tries. A clear overlap to the right was squandered and then when Bateman was tackled inches short having caught a superb kick to the corner by Whitehead.
With six minutes remaining Bedwas got inside the Knights 22 for the first time since the interval – and this from a penalty – but the Knights quickly regained possession and took play back into the home half.
At this point they were penalised just inside their own half from where Wardell kicked a 53 metre penalty to bring the scores level.
Knights were not to be outdone, however, and, from the restart, their pack won the ball and ground their way towards the Bedwas 22 before the inevitable penalty was awarded and Whitehead stepped up to win the game with the last kick.
Looking back the Knights will be wondering how they did not win this game by a much clearer margin and they know that they will have to sharpen up their attack when the Championship games proper start in two weeks time.
Davey will be waiting anxiously to receive the injury reports on Davies, Planchant and centre Devlin, who injured his wrist late on, as well as hoping that injured centres Ollie Goss, Tom Luke and PJ Gidlow, as well as skipper and scrum half Chris Hallam, will be fit for the opening game at home to Bristol a week on Saturday.
Doncaster XV – Mcilwaine, Flockhart (Bateman 40), Devlin, Makaafi, Keating, Whitehead, Autis, Davies (Brown Andy 36, Corsar 65), Boden (Yeandle 40), Flynn (Brown Alex 40), Challinor, Kenworthy (Parsons 40), Boyde, Planchant (Noone 37), Farivarz (Bradford 40)