Doncaster Knights ended what has been a testing first half of the 2018-19 Championship campaign on a winning note when beating Coventry 23-17 at the Butts Park Arena.
With Hartpury losing over the weekend fourth-bottom Knights will kick off the second half of the season 10 points clear of the Gloucestershire club who they visit this weekend.
“We viewed Saturday’s game as a must-win game and we went into it with that sort of mentality and we got the result we wanted, although we had to defend well at the end from a catch-and-drive which could have won them the game,” said director of rugby Clive Griffiths.
“We had a big pack out there and I thought the forwards did really well – I thought they dominated up front – and I’m sure that’s going to be the order of the day at Hartpury this weekend.
“One of the plus points was the return of second-rower Nick Civetta who came back from the USA’s Autumn internationals injured. Nick was very good for us on Saturday and we’ve missed him while he’s been out.”
The Welshman admitted that he had been disappointed when Coventry, who had trailed 7-5 at the break, scored direct from the kick-off.
“It not only gave them a leg-up but it also negated our positive half-time team talk,” he said.
Griffiths claimed he wasn’t unduly worried when Coventry opened up a 17-10 lead midway through the second half with a second try.
“I felt that there was still time for us to get back into the game,” he said. “Obviously the next score was always going to be a game changer and fortunately for us we scored it and then Dougie Flockhart kicked another two penalties.”
“We had nine players either out injured or ill before the game and we also lost Michael Hills and Steve McColl during it so we are doing it tough but the players who came in did us a good job.
“On-loan fly-half Sam Olver, who hasn’t played much of late, did well. He’s a steady player who has played at the top level and although he made a couple of mistakes he controlled the game well and will be better for having played 80 minutes.
“With Kurt Morath out with an HIA I just hope we can keep him for a while.”