Doncaster Knights’ hopes of a top four Championship finish for the third successive year suffered another setback following their 22-12 defeat against Richmond at Castle Park, writes Steve Hossack.
The Londoners became the latest side to win at Castle Park – which is proving no longer the fortress it once was this season - when completing the double.
They needed a last minute try to beat Knights at the Athletic Ground earlier in the season but won the return game – which will be remembered more for the blizzard-like conditions than the rugby - with much more to spare.
Knights remain well-placed in the top four battle but successive defeats have seen them lose ground and allowed two other runners to enter the race.
And with the toughest run-in of any of their rivals this was seen as something of a must-win game.
Already down to the bare bones with well over half-a-dozen players on the sidelines, Knights’ cause wasn’t helped when prop Richard List cried off with a bug on the day of the match and centre Mat Clark also pulled out due to feeling unwell during the warm-up.
That led to centre Lesley Klim being drafted in as a replacement at the 11th hour and prop Colin Quigley, who would only be used in an emergency due to an ankle problem, also helping to fill the bench.
Their problems didn’t stop there with influential skipper Michael Hills picking up what could turn out to be a serious knee injury in the build-up to Richmond’s first try on 15 minutes.
Full-back Robert Kirby added the extras and also added a penalty a couple of minutes later.
Both sides looked to move the ball but the game was littered with handling mistakes.
Richmond, who elected to play with the wind in a change of tactic, regularly put boot to ball and dominated the territorial exchanges.
Prop Jeremy Cunnew added to Doncaster’s problems when breaking away to score a second try on 31 minutes to make it 17-0.
Little had been seen of the Doncaster attack in the second quarter until big prop Joe Sproston rewarded a spell of pressure with a close range try.
Knights would probably have settled for a 17-5 scoreline having played into arguably the worst conditions since their return to the Championship.
But Richmond bagged a third close range try in stoppage time to lead 22-5.
Knowing that they needed to score first after the break, Knights did just that when No 8 Josh Tyrell, who probably felt the cold more than most, touched down for a converted close range try on 47 minutes.
At 22-12 Knights, who had bombed an earlier chance, looked to be back in the game but that was as good as it got and despite a couple of jinking runs by Andy Bulumakau they rarely looked like adding to their tally and ended up empty-handed.
Knights: Cowell, Curtis, A Bulumakau, Foley, Lewis, Humberstone, Heaney; Bergmanas, Nelson, Sproston, Challinor, Hicks, Ram, Hills, Tyrell. Reps: Langdon, Pope, Quigley, Hill, Shaw, James, Klim.