Doncaster Knights ended the most successful year in their history on a fitting note, when beating Richmond 34-3 at Castle Park to climb back into the Championship’s top four.
And on the evidence of their last two games, though there is still work to be done, Knights look capable of mounting another promotion challenge in 2017.
Knights recorded their biggest win of the season by running in nine tries when the two sides met at the Athletic Ground - during a run of eight consecutive defeats for the promoted London side at the beginning of the season.
Richmond’s form of late, which has seen them win two of the last four games as well as giving leaders London Irish their toughest game of the season last time out, suggested Knights would have to work harder for their points in the return and that proved to be the case - certainly in the first quarter when the visitors were the better side.
But the work-rate of the forwards, where Jack Ram impressed on his home debut, the match-winning skills of centre Mat Clark and full-back Paul Jarvis and the trusty boot of Dougie Flockhart, helped secure Knights their bonus point win.
Flockhart also became the club’s new all-time top points scorer during the first half. Richmond, whose attack had more variety and shape, bossed the first quarter and given the fact that it took Knights 20 minutes to breach their 22, were unfortunate to find themselves 6-3 down at that stage.
Knights came more into the game in the second quarter and the strong-running Clark scored a brace of tries – as well as making several other strong runs – to help secure his side a 20-3 interval lead.
His first came on 27 minutes after second-rower Glen Young and scrum-half Michael Heaney had taken play into the Richmond half before the ball was moved from right to left prior to the powerful centre charging over.
Clark then touched down from close range after making a strong run earlier in the move.
Flockhart converted both to give Knights a 17-point interval lead.
Any comeback hopes Richmond may have entertained during the break were effectively dashed when Knights scored again within a couple of minutes of the restart. Prop Robin Hislop touched down from close range after Jarvis had instigated a sweeping move from just inside the halfway line.
For a variety of reasons, Knights failed to build on their flying start to the half and although they rarely looked like conceding a try as they kept a clean sheet for the second successive game, it was beginning to look as though they would miss out in the bonus point try until Latu Makaafi sent hooker Ben Hunter over from a lineout three minutes from time.
Flockhart made it six from six when converting from touch go give Doncaster supporters another reason to celebrate that evening.
Knights: Jarvis, Scanlon, Clark, Flockhart, Lewis; Cusack, Heaney, Hislop, Hunter, John, Challinor, Young, Ram, Hills, Williams. Rep: List, Bergmanas, Quigley,Taylor, Makaafi, Edgerley,Humberstone.
Richmond: Kirby, Woodward, Mitchell, McLean
Cheeseman; Damant, Stuart; Cunnew, Grimstone, Harden,
Warden, Corker, Peters, Allcock, Davies. Rep: Saysell, Tarrant, Hotson, Gibbs, Lynn, Edwards, Walford