Report by Steve Jackson

Cambridge took on the challenge of a midday kick off at Doncaster Knights – scheduled to make the most of a day of 6 Nations rugby – and, despite a lack of points, came away with much credit, especially from their performance in a blistering first forty as Kieran Duffin celebrated his 100th cap.

Blood & Sand fly half Jamie Benson opened the scoring 7 minutes in with a stunning solo effort Steff James added the extras. Benson’s Knights counterpart Billy McBryde touched down for Donny 3 minutes later, Russell Bennett converting to tie the game.

From then on until the half time whistle it was end to end and nip and tuck as both sides traded tries in a pulsating advert for the Championship. Conor Davidson went over for Knights following a penalty on the 5 metre line – Bennett stroked over another two points. Benson added his second of the afternoon with another solo effort down the right hand side, which went unconverted. Home winger Jack Metcalf touched down for Donny’s third on 20 minutes but Bennett was wayward off the tee. And a typically brusque finish from the excellent Nahum Merigan, again converted by James, had the game nicely poised on the half hour.

Knights, though, went into the sheds at the break leading by dint of their bonus point score from centre Joe Bedlow – that lead stretched to 26-19 by Bennett’s third successful two-pointer of the afternoon. Given that the hosts had hammered the Blood & Sand at Grantchester Road, and Richie Williams’ side had already been beaten at Castle Park in the Premiership Cup, there were huge grounds for optimism for a positive result this time out.

As it transpired, the second half was a stodgy affair, dominated by errors from both sides and good game-management from Knights. Bennett increased their lead with a penalty; Knight’s went down to 14 men as Margetts was red carded for a dangerous tackle on man of the match Benson; but despite their best efforts Cambridge couldn’t add to their tally and pick up, at least, a couple of bonus points.

Williams was sanguine afterwards, saying his side were “architects of their own downfall” at times, but couldn’t hide his pleasure at the way they’re adapting to Championship rugby.

“It’s not a hammering but we wanted to get something from today’s game – and that’ll be the disappointment for everyone to dwell on for the next couple of weeks. We were competitive today – the set piece, the breakdown – and we knew we had to be good at that.

I thought we won a lot of the collisions in both halves. Fundamentally, the difference was we made too many individual errors today and couldn’t generate enough momentum, we didn’t get enough good field position in that second half.

We’ve come a long way, we want to win every time that we play – and that score-line on the face of it is very disappointing. We’ll dust ourselves down ready for Ealing in a couple of weeks’ time”.

Catch up on all the game’s action by watching the highlights below:

Teams
Doncaster Knights
Bennett, Metcalf, Margetts, Bedlow, Holden, McBryde, Fox; Davidson, Roberts, Barrett, Beckett, Ehizode, Wilson, Tait, Digby
Replacements – Terry, McArthur, Foster, Mintern, Hopkinson, Brown, Dolly, Veremi

Cambridge
Caven, Asiedu, Hanks, Benson, Green, James, Duffin; Owen, Brownlie, Walker, Frost, Baxter, Bretag-Norris, Cardew, Merigan
Replacements – Veness, Brownhill, Ellwood, Adams, Dawson, Gelderbloom, Wiliams, Maka

Scorers
Doncaster Knights

Tries – McBryde 10, Davidson 18, Metcalf 20, Bedlow 35
Conversions – Bennett 10, 18, 35
Penalty – Bennett 66

Cambridge
Tries – Benson 7, 21 Merigan 30
Conversions – James 7, 30

Scores
HT: 26-19
FT: 29-19

Key Stats
Penalties Conceded 12-12
Lineouts Won 13-11
Lineouts Lost 1-2
Scrums Won 4-2
Scrums Lost 1-0
Yellow Cards 0-0
Red cards 1-0
Referee – Hamish Grant
Attendance 1,382