Doncaster Knights 19 Jersey 2617/01/2015
Jersey travelled to Castle Park, home of Doncaster Knights knowing that only a win would be good enough, and that is what they got. In a battle of 10th vs 11th, with both sides entering the encounter on the back of a series of defeats this was the proverbial '6 pointer' of the round (technically 8 in rugby terms).
A tense encounter in difficult wet and cold conditions was always likely to throw up a few headlines, and any mistake could have been the deciding factor.
Jersey kicked off, and the Knights in receipt of the ball were quick out of the blocks, eager to impose some dominance on the visitors. After a series of moves and coming agonisingly close to a score, Doncaster then opted to kick the 2nd of two penalties won at a scrum when camped on the Jersey try line after 9 minutes. Up stepped Dougie Flockhart to give the hosts the early lead.
The lead was short-lived as Jonny Bentley levelled things up with a penalty of his own. Jersey then took the lead through a trademark 'catch and drive' from a lineout after Bentley had put the Reds into striking distance with a carefully stroked penalty to touch in the corner. It was Williams who was credited with his debut score for the visitors; Bentley added the extras and the lead was 3-10.
As the weather worsened and it started to sleet, Bentley added a second penalty, but this didn't last long as Flockhart doubled the Knights tally with a penalty kick after Sami Fisilau had been adjudged to have made a high tackle on his own 22 - (6-13).
There then ensued a short period of even play, in spite of Jersey's increasing dominance in the forwards due to a significant weight advantage. The deadlock was broken when McCrea pounced on a Knights' mistake to put through a grubber kick that Drew Locke touched down. Bentley again converted and at 6-20 the visitors were starting to look in control.
Picture courtesy of JEP
When Jersey won another penalty, Bentley again went to the
corner. Nick Campbell caught the first line out and as the driving
maul came to an end, the referee called the sides back for an
earlier infringement, awarded the visitors another penalty and
dispatched Matt Challinor to the bin.
Noone took the ball cleanly, but unfortunately the maul broke down again as again Knights were penalised, and this time Jersey opted for 3 points to extend the lead to 6-23.
Penberthy replaced an injured McCrea and with the clock already showing 40 minutes, Doncaster converted their 3rd penalty of the afternoon to go in at the break trailing by 9-23.
From the restart and with the weather worsening, Doncaster came out all guns blazing. Just after Challinor returned to the fray, Joe Buckle picked up a yellow card as Jersey desperately defended.
The Knights scored their only try of the afternoon when scrum-half Tomasi Palu took a quick penalty on the Jersey 22 and dodged a couple of tackles before dotting down. Flockhart converted to make it 16-23.
Restored to 15 men, Jersey then made a foray into the Knights' half and when gifted another penalty within range, Bentley stepped up to extend the lead again to 10 points.
Back came the Knights exerting more pressure and increasingly battering a defiant Jersey defence who were tackling as though their life depended on it (not far from the truth!). With 5 minutes to go Bentley saw yellow and Flockhart converted the subsequent penalty to tee up a grand finale, with the host trailing by only a converted try and the score poised at 19-26.
The Knights won a penalty and kicked to the corner, and with a man advantage were looking for the vital score, but Haining stole possession (not for the first time) and Jersey cleared. With the kick not making touch, back charged Doncaster, running at the Jersey defence from all angles, but the Reds weren't about to give up this lead and duly held on through the rest of added time to take the win.
After the final whistle Biljon paid credit to the resilient display from the whole team when put under pressure at the end. He also expressed pleasure with the way that Fisilau had slotted in with a good debut performance after less than a week on the Island.
Doncaster: Paul Jarvis, Dougie Flockhart, George Catchpole, Bevon Armitage, Tyson Lewis, Paul Roberts, Tomasi Palu; Richard List, Harry Thacker, Colin Quigley, Matthew Challinor, Jon Phelan, Laurence Pearce, Michael Hills (capt), Alex Shaw
Replacements: Jack Bergmanas, Ben Hunter, Ross Davies, Tyler Hotson, Latu Makaafi, Piers Francis, Bruno Bravo.
Jersey: Grant Pointer, Mark Foster, Drew Locke, Lewis Robling, Mark McCrea, Jonny Bentley, Samisoni Fisilau; Sam Lockwood, Joe Buckle, Harry Williams, Pierce Phillips, Nick Campbell, Michael Noone, Ryan Hodson (capt), Nick Haining.
Replacements: Nick Selway, Ignacio Lancuba, Danny Herriott, Dave Markham, Paula Kaho, Ryan Glynn, Aaron Penberthy.
REFEREE: Simon Harding (RFU)
Star man: Samisoni Fisilau - Jersey
Half Time: 9-23
Conversion: Flockhart 1
Penalties: Flockhart 4
Tries: Williams, Locke
Conversions: Bentley 2
Penalties: Bentley 4