- Doncaster Knights - Penalties: Flockhart
- London Irish - Tries: Paice 2, Tikoirotuma 2, Lewington, De Chaves, Conversions: Bell, Penalties: Bell
London Irish will take a healthy advantage into the second leg of their Greene King IPA Championship semi-final clash with Doncaster Knights after sealing a 35-3 victory at Castle Park on Sunday.
The Championship table-toppers were in irresistible form as they ran in six tries in South Yorkshire while barely giving Doncaster a sniff, and Irish will begin next Saturday’s second leg at the Madejski Stadium 32 points to the good.
Doncaster had the lion’s share of possession and territory in the first half but Irish captain David Paice and Fijian wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma both crossed the whitewash twice, as did Alex Lewington and Sebastian de Chaves.
The final whistle's blown & Irish looking strong after the first leg of the Play-off Semi-final. Six tries in all. FT Doncaster 3 - 35 pic.twitter.com/OREUtbXCqY— London Irish (@LiRFC) April 30, 2017
Dougie Flockhart’s first-half penalty was the sole moment of joy for Doncaster, who face an almighty task to turn the tide in next weekend’s second stanza.
Visitors set the tone
Doncaster thought they had stolen a march in the 10th minute when wing Flockhart rose highest to beat Brendan McKibbin to long kick from Simon Humbertstone and attempted to storm over the line but the Knights man was unable to ground the ball properly and, after confirmation from the television match official, the try was disallowed.
It was Irish who would muscle their way in front five minutes later though, with a well-worked line-out and driving maul seeing skipper Paice carry the ball over for the first score of the game – Tommy Bell was unable to add the extras, though, firing wide of the posts.
With 20 minutes to go, the hosts won the first penalty of the game but from just outside the 22, Flockhart shanked his kick off target as Irish were let off the hook.
The visitors accepted that gift with both hands, working through the gears quickly from a lineout and, with Fergus Mulchrone and Ofisa Treviranus combining, the ball was fed to Tikoirotuma to crash over the line out wide to make it 10-0, James Marshall unsuccessful with his conversion attempt.
Despite their two-score advantage, Irish went looking to press the issue home, and a vital piece of defensive work from Knights was required to halt Tikoirotuma five metres from the Doncaster try-line in the 33rd minute.
Knights did manage to grasp a lifeline when Irish were penalised at the scrum late in the half, Flockhart kicking an easy penalty to reduce the deficit to seven points at the break.
However, it took less than three second-half minutes for Irish to repair the damage and also extend their lead.
A lightning-quick break saw Marshall offload to Lewington, who cut through the Doncaster defence with ease as he blitzed over the line to score his team’s third try of the afternoon, Bell adding the extras to make it 17-3.
Seven minutes later, Knights had Aaron Carpenter yellow-carded and, smelling blood, Irish took full advantage of the extra man, powering forward after a lineout five metres from the Doncaster line and forcing Paice over for his second try of the match – Bell was unable to convert, though.
The green tide continued unabated after the hosts’ Paul Jarvis was sin-binned for tipping Lewington and when Knights were penalised at the scrum, the Championship’s top points-scorer Bell dissected the posts with a penalty.
Irish add some gloss to victory
Then, with 62 minutes on the clock, Irish used their brute strength to punish Doncaster with another driving maul, with de Chaves the man to get his name on the scoresheet this time, although Bell failed to add the extras.
FULL TIME | It's all over at Castle Park, the Knights have a mountain to climb next week as they look to overcome 32-point deficit. 3-35.— Doncaster Knights (@DoncasterKnight) April 30, 2017
Shortly after being introduced from the bench, Greig Tonks darted into space and raced over for what would have been his first Championship try of the season, but for the score to be ruled out for the ball having gone out during an earlier phase of play.
However, the Irish man would go on to make an impact with four minutes to go, Tonks exchanging passes with Tikoirotuma as the latter dotted down with ease to further add to the visitors’ total, Bell missing his conversion attempt.
In the final throes of the game, Irish almost snaffled a seventh try of the game as Bell offloaded to Lewington but he could not control the ball under pressure from Tyson Lewis and knocked on.
Doncaster Knights: 15. Jarvis, 14. Flockhart, 13. Bulumakau, 12. Hayes, 11. Lewis, 10. Humberstone, 9. Heaney, 1. List, 2. Hunter, 3. Quigley, 4.Challinor, 5. Young, 6. Shaw, 7. Hills (capt), 8. Carpenter.
Replacements: 16. Bergmanas, 17. Nelson, 18. John, 19. Williams, 20. Clark, 21. Edgerley, 22. Cusack.
London Irish: 15. Bell, 14. Lewington, 13. Tikoirotuma, 12. Mulchrone, 11. Cokanasiga, 10. Marshall, 9. McKibbin, 1. Hobbs-Awoyemi, 2. Paice (capt), 3. Franks, 4. De Chaves, 5. Sinclair, 6. Coman, 7. Cowan, 8. Treviranus.
Replacements: 16. Porecki, 17. Court, 18. Hoskins, 19. Robson, 20. Gilsenan, 21. Steele, 22. Tonks.
Referee: Luke Pearce