November 22 2011
A look back in time to 2006 and a previous visit to Doncaster. Following a late defeat by Leeds, The Pirates went back on the road to Doncaster “to get their 'roadshow' up and running, and prove a point or two in the process.” This is what Woll wrote at the time:-
Away Day Joy at Donny
December 13 2006
A fortnight after the heartache at Headingley, the Pirates returned to Yorkshire keen to get their 'roadshow' up and running, and prove a point or two in the process.
To the delight of the travelling fans, they managed this with a mixture of style and grit against a Doncaster side who for long periods gave ample credence to their own early season standing.
Conditions were near perfect with a pleasant, sunny autumn afternoon only mildly spoiled by a tricky cross pitch breeze. Expectations of a cagey start were blown away as the Pirates won possession from their own kick off and worked they way quickly into the Knights 22. In the blink of an eye, Gavin Cattle had sniped through a tiny gap and was under the posts with less than a minute registered. In his wake, a bewildered home defence waited in vain for referee Kitt to bail them out somehow. He didn't, leaving Di Bernardo’s conversion a formality to complete the perfect start for the Pirates. 7-0.
Doncaster though shell shocked by this early breach, regained their composure and from the restart began to get some ball retention of their own. The pack soon provided old warhorse, and ex Otley scrum half Scully with a firm base to distribute neatly to an increasingly dangerous backline. The Pirates defence though had set out it's stall and was hitting everything in blue that moved. In the process, Pirates winger Jonny Hylton was injured whilst making a tackle, which lead to a worringly lengthy stoppage. Hylton was eventually stretchered off and taken to hospital as a precaution with what appeared to be a neck problem/concussion. Happily it later transpired that Hylts was going to be fine and that nothing serious had occurred.
Replacement James Moore filled the gap as Doncaster resumed their assault, though this period of pressure only resulted in a Woodrow penalty to reduce the arrears to 7-3 with about 8 minutes gone. Sensing perhaps the disappointment at such a meagre reward, the Pirates again created havoc at the restart as Senekal and Motusaga harrassed the receiver. With Doncaster on the back foot again, the ball came the Pirates way causing the home defence to infringe and allow Di Bernardo with his first penalty of the game, to regain a seven point lead with ease.
This set the tone for what was developing into a pulsating confrontation between two of the early pace-setters. As a result, the game began to open up as both sides opted to throw it around at every opportunity. The battle up front was also full on as the Pirates pack gradually got the measure a larger eight. Paver in particular matched the huge Tau, and Motusaga looked his usual troublesome self in the breakdown. Even so it was the Knights who scored next through a second Woodrow penalty, as the half reached it's mid point.
Five minutes later and another sharp Doncaster attack was snubbed out although Motusaga was adjudged to have come in from the side, and was handed ten minutes to think things through on the bench. Woodrow punished this misdemeanor with a third penalty, and for the first time in the game the visitors appeared hesitant. The lineout faltered on a couple of occasions and the defence finally had to concede when Forster stormed through for Doncaster's first try. Woodrow continued his fine kicking form with a tricky conversion to the left of the posts, and it was not inconceivable that a lesser side would have crumbled.
Not so the Cornish Pirates, who regrouped and took play back to the hosts, who once more looked ropey at the kick off. With Motusaga due back on at any minute the Pirates were awarded a penalty of their own on 33 mins. Wisely, Di Bernardo pointed to the posts, aware that the catch and drive option may have been foolhardy with Iva still the wrong side of the touchline. On a day when both teams kickers were to maintain 100% record, Alberto’s kick to bring it back to 13-16 was as sweet as ever.
Even so with the Cornishmen back to full strength shortly after, the remainder of the half belonged to Doncaster. Despite wave after wave of attacks, the visitor’s held their line to ensure no further scoring occurred before Mr Kitt blew for half time.
Doncaster made the only change of the break with van Vurren coming on for Hunt, and began the second period where they had left off in the first. The opening five minutes or so was all Doncaster who now had a lowering sun as well a decreasing breeze in their faces to contend with. And yet against the run of play it was two further di Bernado penalties that eased the strain to once more give the Pirates the lead at 19-16.
Such things give heart to a team and defence turned to attack for the Pirates who began to take charge of the game. Suddenly the home side looked vulnerable and it was no surprise when Roke crashed through two tackles to cap an excellent spell of pressure with fifteen minutes of the half completed. The extras were a given and handed the visitors a comfortable looking ten point margin 26-16.
Not content with this though, the Pirates kept pressing to seal victory and try and avoid any chance of a repeat of the last gasp loss to Leeds. On the hour mark they introduced Cracknell for Motusaga, who impressed immediately and went on to have a very useful twenty minute run out. The change added another dimension to Pirates game plan, and yet some dogged defence by the Knights restricted their opponents to only one nicely struck penalty by di Bernado who had earlier narrowly missed a drop goal attempt.
Thirteen points down and with less than fifteen minutes to go, the situation for Doncaster looked bleak. The defence looked dejected, and from posing a real threat earlier going forwards, their attack now looked to be going sideways all the time. Chief organiser Scully was replaced mid way through the half and triggered a flurry of further replacements as Doncaster decided to put on a fresh front row. The Pirates on the other hand kept their remaining substitutes where they were, opting instead to keep the momentum with the fifteen out there.
But this game was far from over as the hosts sought to at least get the bonus point. Time and again they probed looking for a way through, only to meet a solid defensive wall in every area. By way of variation they tested Winnan with the high ball a bit more, but the young Cornish full back had had a safe pair of hands all afternoon, and took everything in his stride. His vision too was immaculate as he cleared his lines with confidence whether with the boot or by hand.
A change of shorts for Cattle provided some respite from the pressure being exerted by Doncaster as the game entered the last ten minutes. As much as it probably entertained the ladies, upon play resuming it was clear now that the Knights had found a second wind. On 75 minutes this resilience was rewarded when Wilson crossed the line and set up what was to be a nailbiting finish. The bonus point was secured with Woodrow's fifth success out of five and with the score now 29-23 memories of Leeds suddenly flooded back.
This may have been on the minds of both sets of players as Doncaster threw caution to the wind and tried to emulate their Yorkshire rivals. It was tense but exciting stuff as most of the play took place in the Pirates half. In the end it seemed to come down to a tap and go penalty deep inside the Pirates 22 which was excellently handled by a well marshalled defence. Surprisingly a further penalty was awarded to extend the agony though the ball ended up out of play on Doncaster's left flank. The lineout was taken but came to nothing prompting Mr Kitt to finally blow the whistle which actually caught everyone by surprise; the first indication coming from arms raised aloft by jubilant Pirates players.