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Doncaster Knights 18 Bristol 38: Championship leaders extend Knights’ win-less run

Clive Griffiths
Clive Griffiths
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The Beatles once claimed that money can’t buy you love.

But it can buy you success as Bristol Rugby are proving as they look to bounce back to the Premiership at the first time of asking.

The big-spending visitors will start the second half of the season eight points clear of second-placed Ealing following their 38-18 win over Doncaster Knights at Castle Park.

In stark contrast to Bristol’s 100 per cent return from their 11 games Knights have now gone six Championship games without a win.

It’s not the sort of record anyone connected with the club expected when the competition kicked-off in September and results will have to be a lot better in the second half of the campaign if they are to finish in the top-four for the third successive season.

But if they play as well as they did on this occasion on a regular basis it shouldn’t be beyond them.

Although Bristol’s unbeaten record was never seriously challenged they were made to work harder than many people probably expected given their record and the fact that Knights had lost 57-14 last time out.

The heaviest-ever defeat during director of rugby Clive Griffiths two spells in charge and resulted in the Welshman demanding the players show pride in the shirt.

They did that and more in both defence and attack.

That Bristol only scored four tries, and their bonus point touchdown didn’t come until late in normal time when Knights were down to 14 men, underlined just how well the home side defended throughout against a side which had eight international players in their starting line-up.

Bristol quickly settled into their free-flowing expansive style of play and took an early 3-0 lead courtesy of the boot of fly-half Ian Madigan - a man who boasts over 30 caps for Ireland.

Knights weathered further pressure prior to taking a 7-3 lead.

Wing Tyson Lewis did well to charge down an attempted clearance kick by Madigan just outside his own 22 and raced away down the left to set-up the position from which second-rower Matt Challinor touched down for a try goaled by the recalled Simon Humberstone.

With on-loan full-back Cameron Cowell showing up well on his home debut when joining the attack, Knights retained their lead until the 20th minute when Bristol scored the first of two tries from catch and drives.

Humberstone, who had earlier tracked back to take man and ball after former Knights favourite Will Hurrell had intercepted a pass in his own 22 and raced into the Doncaster half with support on his right, levelled the scores at 10-10 during an impressive second quarter showing.

Successful penalties either side of the interval saw Bristol lead 16-10.

Humberstone pulled three points back with a 47th minute penalty but Bristol added two unanswered tries to lead 33-13.

Knights hit back with a try by wing Curtis Wilson following good work by centre Will Owen. But that was as good as it got.

Knights: Cowell, Wilson, Clark, Owen, Lewis, Humberstone, Heaney: List, Hunter, Sproston, Challinor, Eames, Shaw, Hills, Hill. Replacements: Bergmanas, Evans, Quigley, Langdon, Batt, James, Cusack.