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Rotherham 22 - Doncaster 32
Doncaster’s victory over local rivals Rotherham not only meant that they kept the South Yorkshire bragging rights for another season but, most importantly, they also maintained their 100% record in Pool D of the inaugural British & Irish Cup with five wins out of five, all with a bonus point, the only pool winner to do so.

For this match, the final one of 9 in the past 28 days, Doncaster Knights Director of Rugby Lynn Howells again rotated his squad to try to keep his players relatively fresh after the punishing schedule they have had to undertake. The only players to retain their places in the starting XV from the side that had beaten Pontypridd three days earlier were wing Douglas Flockhart, centre Chris Briers and No 8 Andy Boyde.

Doncaster started down the slope and went ahead after only two minutes. A Titans clearance kick was gathered by the covering Neil Cochrane on his own 22, he made ground to the halfway line before linking with centre Hudson Tonga’uiha who, although immediately tackled, fed the ball to his supporting scrum half Chris Hallam who raced 50 metres to score. Warnock’s conversion was a formality and the Knights were 7 points ahead. Rotherham came straight back however and, although they retained the ball for long passages of play in the next 25 minutes, they were unable to breach the miserly Knights defence. During this period all Titans had to show for their efforts was a penalty by scrum half Jonny West after 8 minutes which was cancelled out almost immediately by a similar score by Warnock. Throughout this period of pressure the Knights scrum was dominant and after 28 minutes they pinned Titans on their own goal line with a series of scrums which eventually led to the referee awarding Doncaster a penalty try that was converted by Warnock. With the game deep into injury time, the Knights struck again with a superb try. Doncaster attacked from a scrum and, after winger Matt Williams was held on the Titans 22, prop Tom Davies carried the ball towards the Rotherham goal line. When he was checked he popped the ball to Tonga’uiha who fed lock Dan Smith before the ball was moved quickly to the right and finger tip passing from hooker Steve Boden to Warnock to Boyde to Briers to full back Carter who dived over with winger Flockhart still outside him. Absolutely excellent training ground passing under pressure by the Knights.

Although turning around 22 points to 3 down, Rotherham stuck to their task and, with the slope to their advantage, they took the game to the Knights. With 9 minutes gone, Doncaster lost possession on their own 22 and the ball was moved to the left where replacement prop Anton O’Donnell put out a lovely floating pass, that any of his backs would have been proud of, to winger Peter Swatkins who just managed to evade the clutches of the covering Flockhart to score in the corner. At this point Rotherham took off their two half backs and replaced them with the experienced Neil Chivers at scrum half and the talismanic Mike Whitehead, now recovered from illness and injury, at flyhalf. These two changes made an immediate impact on the Titans team and, coupled with Swatkins try, their confidence rocketed. With Chivers and Whitehead now orchestrating the proceedings the Knights were now under intense pressure but they held out until the 58th minute when, from Titans line out 5 metres from the Doncaster line, Canadian international flanker Adam Kleeberger burst over to score a try that was converted by Whitehead. The battle hardened Knights team were not going to be beaten however and they regrouped before giving Warnock the chance to extend their lead with a penalty which he duly took. Worst was to come for Rotherham however as, almost from the restart, a poor kick by Titans was gathered on the halfway line near touch by Carter and he burst past several defenders before passing to the supporting Briers who evade two despairing tackles to score in the left hand corner for a try that Warnock converted from the touchline. As the game went deep into injury time what can almost be described a 14 point try happened. Doncaster stormed away at the Titans line and replacement prop Toma Toke crashed over for what appeared to be a good try but which the referee penalised for a double movement. Whilst the Knights were preparing to celebrate, Whitehead took a tap penalty on his own goal line and put a long floating pass to Swatkins who, although he had to juggle the ball, made it to the halfway line before drawing the covering Knights defenders and passing back inside to Whitehead who raced the final 45 metres for a good try that he himself converted for the final score of the game.

After the game and normal hospitality, the Knights squad and management retreated en bloc to a local hostelry for a couple of hours where they enjoyed a well deserved drink organised by Howells to celebrate their magnificent run of 8 wins out of 9 games within 28 days, a schedule that Howells hopes will never be inflicted on any team again. That being said, Howells admitted that the pressure had drawn the squad very close together and given him the opportunity to give all of them game time to push their cases for inclusion in the match day team as the business end of the season, with the Championship playoffs and B&I Cup semi-final, approaches.

Rotherham Titans: Hunt, Feeley, Maggs (Henderson 53), Gidlow, Swatkins, Allen (Whitehead 50), West (Chivers 50), Voisey (Conroy 53), Batty, Prescott (O’Donnell 40), Challinor, Haytor (Barnes 69), Swindall (Du Plessis 33), Burrows, Kleeberger

Doncaster Knights: Carter, Flockhart, Tonga’uiha, Briers, Williams, Warnock, Hallam (D’Arcy 74), Davies (Toke 69), Boden (Doughty 72), Cusack (Thiede 60), Kenworthy, Smith (Griffiths 61), Lowcock (Kettle 46), Boyde, Cochrane Replacement not used: Brooks

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