Doncaster Knights’ driving maul might not be the most attractive of their tactics but it continues to be an effective weapon in their Championship play-off bid.
Four of their five tries in their 34-24 win over derby rivals Rotherham Titans at Castle Park came via the catch and drive ploy.
But no Doncaster fans in the club’s biggest crowd of the season will have had any grumbles after seeing Knights beat their rivals for the first time in eight games.
The talk from both camps in the build-up was all about the form book ‘going out of the window’ in derby games, but on this occasion it was the form team who deservedly took the spoils.
Although there were times that Titans threatened to live up to their reputation as Knights bogey team, the qualities which had seen the Castle Park side lose just one of their previous 13 league and cup games always looked likely to earn them victory.
Having scored the two best tries from a neutral’s point of view, Titans will have been disappointed to go home empty-handed, especially having dropped down to tenth overnight.
“There were times during the game when we had the momentum and we were in good field positions but we didn’t execute things that were fully in our control,” said Titans boss Mark Jones, whose side have now lost eight games in succession.
“We knew Doncaster weren’t going to give us anything and our inability to execute key set-pieces was the difference at the end of the day and we’ll have to look at that.”
Said Knights boss Clive Griffiths: “We made life difficult for ourselves at times but I’d have settled for a 34-24 scoreline this morning taking into account the history of the games against Rotherham.”
“I thought that we were pretty dominant and I have to say that our forwards were magnificent and big wraps to forwards’ coach Glen Kenworthy.”
Knights took the lead on nine minutes, after Titans had just edged the opening exchanges, when centre Mat Clark punished some weak defending close to the line to claim the first try of the game after good work by Dougie Flockhart and No 8 Ollie Stedman had helped take play into the Rotherham 22.
Flockhart’s conversion came back off the far post.
Titans’ best spell of pressure in the first quarter failed to bring them the try they were looking but they didn’t come away empty handed as fly-half Ross Jones landed an easy penalty.
Titans, who had not looked short of confidence in the first quarter, got their noses in front on 21 minutes.
Centre Jordan Davies spun out of a tackle after the ball had been moved right at pace, and then found full-back Sean Scanlon on his outside and he ran strongly to touch down out wide.
Jones added the touchline conversion to make it 10-5.
Knights regained the lead on 27 minutes when the impressive Stedman touched down from a driving maul close to the line near enough for Flockhart to convert.
He had a second try disallowed for not grounding the ball properly after peeling off a driving maul on 34 minutes.
Knights remained camped in the Rotherham 22 and several players went close to a try prior to Flockhart kicking a 39th minute penalty to make it 15-10. Jones had the chance to reduce the deficit in injury-time but his straight 30 metre penalty hit the post.
Titans brought on Lloyd Hayes for centre Joe Barker, who had spoilt a first half break by passing to Flockhart, at the start of the second half and he wasted no time in making an impact.
Put into space by a a superb pass by Jones, the centre ran strongly and, after trying to wrong-foot full-back Paul Jarvis, sent the supporting Jack Hayes over.
Jones added the extras to make it 17-15 but was denied by the woodwork again three minutes later. Knights edged back in front (20-17) on 51 minutes when Stedman touched down for a unconverted try from another driving maul.
Stedman completed his hat-trick from another catch and drive routine on 57 minutes to secure his side a bonus point. Flockhart added the extras this time from touch to make it 27-17.
Just when it looked as though the game was getting away from Titans, prop Toby Williams forced his way over for a 60th minute try, goaled by replacement fly-half James McKinney.
Despite losing Flockhart and Declan Cusack in quick succession, Knights gave themselves breathing space with a fourth try from a driving maul, this time scored by Latu Makaafi, on 68 minutes. Simon Humberstone’s conversion made it 34-24.
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis; Flockhart, Clark, Bulumakau, Hurrell; Cusack, Heaney; List, Hunter, Quigley, Challoner, Phelan, Shaw, Hills, Stedman. Rep: Veiksoso, Sprotson, John, Hotson.. Makaafi, Humberstone, Field.
Rotherham Titans: Scanlan; Keating, Davies, Barker, J Hayes; Jones, Carter; Hislop, Harris, Tampin, Holmes, Sinclair, Oram, Calladine, Argyle. Rep: Maddison, Williams, Thiede, Cree, Ryan, L Hayes, McKinney.
Ref: Andrew Jackson