Doncaster Knights got their Greene King IPA Championship campaign off to a winning start for the first time in three years with a typically hard-fought 26-24 victory over Jersey Reds at St Peter.
Games between the two sides, whatever the venue, have traditionally been tight affairs over the years and Saturday’s encounter was no exception.
Both sides scored two tries on the day and in the final analysis it was the kicking of fly-half Simon Humberstone – a deserved winner of the man-of-the-match award - which secured Knights the spoils.
Standing in as kicker for the injured Dougie Flockhart, who faces up to two months on the sidelines after suffering a pre-season ankle injury, the half-back kicked two penalties in the final quarter as Knights came from behind to avenge last season’s defeat at St Peter.
Those Doncaster supporters who travelled over to the Channel Islands would have been delighted with the result - not so much the generally untidy scrums which were a blot on the game.
They will be certainly hoping for something better in this weekend’s South Yorkshire derby against Rotherham Titans at Castle Park.
Knights had several former Rotherham players making their league debut for the club at St Peter with centre Will Owen sharing the two first half tries with ex-Bedford half-back Tom James.
It was Owen, partnered by Charlie Foley - another man to feature for Titans last season – who opened the scoring after Knights had moved the ball from a lineout and split the Jersey defence down the middle.
Given the nod over Dec Cusack, Humberstone added the extras and he also kicked the first of four penalties to make it 10-3 after his Jersey counterpart Australian Brendan Cope had opened the Reds’ account.
Cope added a second penalty before adding the extras to his own try. He was on hand in the Doncaster 22 to finish off a move initiated from a quickly-taken tap by scrum-half Kieran Hardy inside his own half.
He also found the target with a second penalty to leave Knights, who had earlier gone close to a second try, trailing 16-10.
Just when it looked as though Knights, who had played down the slope but into the wind, would go in behind James crossed out wide after the ball had gone corner to corner in the Jersey 22. Humberstone’s touchline conversion saw the visitors lead by a point.
Both sides exchanged penalties in the third quarter before wing Jason Worrall showed good footwork when touching down wide out to give a Jersey side with seven new faces in its starting line-up a 24-20 lead.
Humberstone pegged three points back before the lead changed hands for the sixth and final time in the last ten minutes when landing his fourth penalty to take his personal tally to 16 points.
Knights could never afford to relax during the nail-biting finish but they held on for a confidence-boosting win over the side which finished level on points with them last season.
Knights: Jarvis, J Bulumakau, Foley, Owen, Lewis, Humberstone, Healey; List, Hunter, Quigley, Challinor, Hicks, Shaw, Hills, Carpenter. Rep: Nelson, Evans, Sprotson, Eames, Hill, James, Cusack.