A last minute converted try sentenced Doncaster Knights to a 29-27 Championship defeat against Hartpury College on their first ever visit to the Gillman’s Ground.
Just when it looked as though third-placed Knights would hang on for their fifth win in six games following a magnificent backs-to-the-wall defensive spell in their 22, scrum-half Harry Randall levelled the scores with his hat-trick try from a ruck to set the scene for Jacob Perry’s match-winning conversion.
Knights, for whom former Hartpury hooker Ben Hunter was making his 100th appearance for the club, made the early running and took the lead on 12 minutes.
Centre Will Owen did well to offload in the tackle to centre Andy Bulumakua and he raced in to score a try converted by fly-half Simon Humberstone.
The home side, last season’s National One champions, capitalised on lost possession in the Doncaster 22 and full-back Mike Wilcox eventually found a gap at the start of the second quarter after the ball had been moved to the flank and back again.
Hartpury would have gone 10-7 up with the conversion to come had wing Ed Sheldon not dropped the ball.
The home side threatened again and but for a risky interception by full-back Junior Bulumakau would likely have capitalised on a huge overlap.
It only proved a stay of execution, however, and two minutes later Randall raced in from around 20 metres out for a try goaled by half-back partner Perry.
Just when it looked as though Knights would go in trailing 12-7 scrum-half Tom James celebrated his first league start for the club when touching down from a move he had started following a great offload by Junior Bulumakau to wing Tyson Lewis who in turn supplied the scoring pass. Humberstone again added the extras to secure Knights a two-point lead.
Knights were in again at the start of the second – a good run by wing Curtis Wilson setting up the position from which veteran prop Colin Quigley touched down for his first try for the club after several seasons at Castle Park.
Humberstone again added the extras to make it 21-12.
No sooner had the Doncaster cheers died down than the home side were back to within two points – Perry, who also tagged on the extras, touching down from a quickly-taken tap penalty.
Both sides threatened prior to Humberstone giving Knights a bit more breathing space with a long-range penalty on 50 minutes followed by a second just short of the hour.
It needed a try-saving tackle by Wilson to maintain Knights’ eight-point lead but that was cut to five with ten minutes to go.
Only magnificent goal-line defence, during which prop Owen Evans was injured, denied the home side from a series of ‘pick and go’ moves.
Knights: J Bulumakau, Wilson, A Bulumakau, Owen, Lewis, Humberstone, Carr; List, Hunter, Quigley, Eames, Hicks, Challinor, Hills, Shaw. Rep: Nelson, Evans, Sprotson, Hill, Jones, Heaney, Cusack.