Director of rugby Clive Griffiths admits his rugby connections have come in handy after new recruits helped injury-hit Doncaster Knights pull off a hard-fought 33-17 victory at Old Albanians.
Leicester Tigers’ Lucas Guillaume and Riccardo Brugnara, and cross-code midfield man Stephen Bannister from North Wales Crusaders, all joined the SSE National League One club in midweek.
Back-row Guillaume has joined on loan from Welford Road while Brugnara, an Italy Under-20 prop, is on dual registration terms.
But it was rugby union convert Bannister who stepped in to make his mark on the first team in an eye-catching debut at centre – while Guillaume appeared from the bench.
The Knights did not have it all their own way in the second half, however, after doubles from Tyson Lewis and Roberto Santamaria saw them race into a 28-3 lead before the break.
Old Albanians crashed over twice soon after the interval but replacement Benjamin Hunter ran over for another Knights try to make sure of the win and another week at top spot.
And Griffiths insists his side need all the help they can get from new faces as their injury list continues to pile up.
“The boys have come in and have acquitted themselves superbly and embraced what we want to do,” said Griffiths. “You don’t play for Leicester if you haven’t been recognised as a good player.
“We’ve called our big brothers and without that help we’d have been struggling because we have double-figure injuries in our squad who are good players.
“As well as Stephen Bannister, from the rugby league, they are players who are not normally at the club and for them to have integrated pretty quickly is a huge bonus.
“You could say we should beat Old Albanians away but they had Saracens players in too.
“We’re carving out wins and that’s all we can do, but I’m just looking forward to the day when we have a selection headache.”
The Knights are now eyeing up a mouth-watering home clash against second-placed Rosslyn Park, who enjoyed a fine 38-31 win over fellow promotion candidates Esher this weekend.
And despite a rocky period early in the second half, Griffiths believes his side’s victory was the perfect way to boost morale ahead of the crunch match.
“We’ve had a good win on the road,” he added. “It gave them the lift and we had to work hard to get the victory and showed what we can do.
“We had a very good first half and a very poor ten minutes in the second half. But we dug deep from there.”
*SSE, proud sponsor of the National and Divisional Leagues, has £10,000 of SSE Energy Credits available for clubs to win. To find out how go to www.SSERugby.com