Doncaster Knights completed their pre-season campaign with a 35-26 win over a Newcastle Falcons XV at Castle Park.
Knights were good value for their third win in their four warm-up games in the first game to be played on the club’s new £300,000 plus pitch.
Knights scored some excellent tries, particularly in the first half but director of rugby Clive Griffiths was right to be concerned about some aspects of their defence.
With shirts up for grabs ahead of Saturday’s opening Championship clash against Jersey everyone was keen to impress Griffiths who faces an unenviable task this week when it comes to picking his first team of the season.
Fly-half Simon Humberstone gave Knights a lead they never lost, kicking an early penalty. Newcomer Charlie Foley, who impressed at full-back last time out, looked equally at home in the centre and set up the opening try for scrum-half Tom James.
James also showed up well and his battle with Ruaridh Dawson was a highlight.
Despite not being as strong as the side which beat Knights 31-8 at Kingston Park a fortnight earlier, the Premiership club hit back with a try by big second-rower Tevita Cavubati.
Fly-half Craig Willis closed the gap to 10-7 when adding the extras.
Knights regained their ten-point advantage with a 50 metre try after wing Junior Bulumakau had forced a turnover.
Several players were involved in the build-up to Humberstone’s converted try including full-back Paul Jarvis – in his first game for three weeks after picking up a hamstring strain – and Foley, who supplied the final pass.
James got away down the right and tried to round the last line of defence prior to throwing a wayward pass inside to Bulumakau as he headed for touch.
The wing would also have backed himself to score had Jarvis’s pass out of the tackle been better following more snappy handling from left to right.
But Humberstone kicked a second penalty to secure his side 20-7 interval lead.
Having made several changes during the break Knights made a sluggish start to the second half and Newcastle grabbed a second try by scrum-half Dawson following good work by Harrison Orr.
Declan Cusack, who had replaced Humberstone, kicked Knights into a 23-12 lead. Wing Tyson Lewis, who had earlier been bundled into touch just short of the line, touched down in the corner from close range.
At 28-12 the result looked a foregone conclusion but the visitors hit back with another converted try on the hour – Orr running on to a short ball on the Doncaster 22 to present Willis with a simple conversion. Hooker Curtis Langton grabbed Doncaster’s final try – his second in successive games – after Jason Hill had made the initial break.
With Cusack adding the extras they led 35-19. Newcastle had the final word with a late converted try by James Elliott.