Doncaster Knights pulled off another Houdini-style escape to claim a five-point 34-28 Championship derby win over Yorkshire Carnegie at Castle Park.
The last team to beat Knights in the league five months ago, Carnegie looked to be on course to become the first side to do the double over Clive Griffiths’ men this season and climb above them into second spot when leading 28-27 with just a couple of minutes on the clock.
There will have been many in the 2,331 crowd who will have thought Knights chance had gone when fly-half Declan Cusack was well wide with a 40 metre penalty on 77 minutes.
Cusack helped make amends with a clever chip kick to wing Andy Bulumakau which almost resulted in a try for centre Mat Clark on 79 minutes.
Knights had one last throw of the dice and they rolled a seven - flanker Michael Hills romping over out wide after some smart handling along the line.
By general consent the Carnegie pack bossed the forward exchanges in their 27-20 win at Headingley – something prop Richard List said Knights were desperate to avenge.
“We didn’t want them to complete the double and that helped us to raise our game,” he said. “Our aim is to try and nullify any pack that comes here because we want to be the kings of the castle.”
Well though the pack played -Alex Shaw showing up well standing in for injured No 8 Ollie Stedman - it was the backs who won the day.
Wing Andy Bulumakau scored two tries which were out of the top drawer and went close on another couple of occasions in each half.
His first came when he cut in from the wing after some good handling by Cusack and Clark and showed blistering pace and perfect balance cutting past several defenders on a diagonal run to score under the posts to give Cusack the chance to make it 7-3 after Carnegie had drawn first blood during a niggly opening spell.
His second, after Carnegie had regained the lead with a close-range try by powerful No 8 Ryan Burrows, was even better.
He sent full-back Paul Jarvis racing through a gap and somehow managed to get up on his shoulder some 25 or so metres from the line and then leave the cover for dead before diving over near enough for Cusack to make it 17-11.
“It was something that we had worked on in training specifically for this game and it came off,” he said.
But for a poor pass from Hills close to the line Bulumakau would have gone in at the corner three minutes after the restart.
Doncaster supporters didn’t have to wait long for a third try though, replacement Simon Humberstone weaving his way past several defenders on 47 minutes after cutting back inside.
Trailing 24-11, Carnegie looked out of it but they hit back with two quality tries of their own scored by wings Seb Stegmann and David Doherty, and with Harry Lennard converting one Knights lead was pegged back to just one point,
Cusack’s penalty gave Knights a little more breathing space but with second-rower Tyler Hotson in the sin bin, a second Doherty try restored Carnegie’s lead ten minutes from time.
“We always thought we would win even when it got down to the last minute,” said Bulumakua.
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis; Bulumakua, Clark, Hurrell, Lewis; Cusack Heaney; List, Hunter, Quigley, Challinor, Phelan, Makaafi, Hills, Shaw. Rep: Pasquali, Stagg, John, Hotson, Young, Humberstone, Field.
Yorkshire Carnegie: Holmes; Stegman, Lucock, Casson,Doherty; Lennard, Pilgrim; Beech, Nilsen, O’Donnell, Schofield, Smith, Jones, Saull, Burrows. Rep: Graham, Boyce, Williams, Hooper, Walker, Hodgson, Forsyth.