Doncaster Knights 36 Bristol Rugby 13
BRISTOL’S resurgence was halted by Doncaster at Castle Park as the Yorkshire club scored three tries in the final 21 minutes to pull away from their visitors and seal victory. Bristol, who had climbed into the top eight of the Championship with back-to-back wins over Plymouth Albion and Esher, trailed 17-13 with 59 minutes on the clock – but were undone in the final quarter of the game.
Paul Hull’s side were eventually outscored by five tries to one, despite arguably being the better team in the opening 40 minutes and only going in behind at the break after the home side scored in stoppage-time.
In-form academy starlet George Watkins followed up his two-try salvo against Esher with Bristol’s solitary try – and was also held up over the line when his side trailed 17-10.
The visitors, for whom Adrian Jarvis added eight points with the boot, also had two clear-cut chances to score tries in the first half but were made to pay for missing their opportunities.
In the end, Doncaster secured the five points after tries from Latu Maka’afi, Dougie Flockhart, Dom Parsons, Matt Williams and Ed Jackson, leaving Bristol to reflect on an afternoon of missed chances and unforced mistakes.
Head coach Hull said: “We were in that game well into the second and clawed it back to 17-13 – and the game was in the balance. We’re bitterly disappointed that we shipped five tries, because I don’t think we deserved that.”
Bristol trailed 17-10 at half-time after agonisingly conceding a converted try seconds before the interval. The first half had generally been an evenly-matched contest, with Bristol starting well and going close to opening the score on six minutes when Jack Tovey knocked on as he prepared to strike.
The visitors took the lead on 10 minutes through a Jarvis penalty following a scrummaging offence more than 40 metres out – but Bristol’s joy was short-lived as Tristan Roberts responded with a penalty of his own within three minutes.
Ollie Hayes and Watkins then combined after Roberts had coughed up possession – and the Bristol flyer would have scored in the left corner but for a brave, last-ditch tackle from Oli Goss.
The game ebbed and flowed, with Doncaster taking the lead after enjoying a huge slice of good fortune on the touchline. A punt out of defence bounced no more than an inch inside the line and stayed in touch, allowing Flockhart to kick ahead and set up Maka’afi, who raced in to score the game’s first try.
Roberts converted for 10-3 – only for Watkins to cross after Junior Fatialofa had pierced a hole in the home defence, with Jarvis converting to bring the score level.
Bristol had just about edged the opening period and appeared to be heading into the break on level terms when Flockhart capped a period of sustained Knights pressure by finishing off a slick move in the corner, with Roberts landing the tricky conversion for 17-10.
Bristol’s response after the break was positive, with Watkins being held up over the line, before Jarvis landed a penalty for 17-13.
But the final quarter of the match was disappointingly one-sided as far as Bristol were concerned, with Doncaster adding three further tries to their two first-half scores.
Parsons was the beneficiary after Steve McColl offloaded excellently out of the tackle to grab try number three, before the prolific Williams effectively killed off any hopes of Bristol fightback with his 10th try of the season.
The speedster capitalised after Fatialofa lost possession on his 22, taking PJ Gidlow’s pass to score, even though there was a suspicion that the centre had stepped in touch as he released the scoring pass.
Roberts supplied the extras – as he did in injury-time when Doncaster produced a breakaway try after a Bristol attack broke down, No 8 Jackson starting and finishing the counterattack to give the scoreline an unflattering look.
Doncaster Knights: S McColl; D Flockhart, O Goss, P Gidlow, M Williams (A Wright 80); T Roberts, C Hallam (N Jones 72); D Frazier (L Thiede 61), S Boden, M Cusack, M Challinor, G Kenworthy (D Parsons 50), L Maka’afi (T Doughty 34-40, C Walker 63), N Cochrane (capt), E Jackson. Rep not used: C Lewis-Pratt.
Scorers: Tries – Maka’afi, Flockhart, Parsons, Williams, Jackson. Cons – Roberts (4). Pen – Roberts.
Sin-binned: Boden (30-40).
Bristol Rugby: S Marsden; J Tovey, J Adams, J Fatialofa (E Barnes 72), G Watkins; A Jarvis (N Little 67), R Shaw; M Irish (M Vunipola 50), O Hayes (D Blaney 67), D Crompton (W Thompson 50), M Sambucetti, R Winters, I Grieve (capt; D Barry 69), J Merriman, D Montagu. Rep not used: R Bolt.
Scorers: Try – Watkins. Con – Jarvis. Pens – Jarvis (2).
Sin-binned: Adams (31-41).
Referee: C Sharp.