Doncaster Knights fell to their third single point defeat of the season against a free-running Llandovery side in an eight-try thriller at Castle Park.
The Drovers from West Wales stole victory away from a very powerful Knights team that dominated the set-piece for lengthy periods of the game as the captivating encounter saw the lead change no fewer than eight times.
The top of Pool 8 clash took little time to catch light as Clive Griffiths’s men drove deep into the visitors’ territory through a succession of powerful carries. A series of scrums followed in which Doncaster proved their forward supremacy against an over-eager visiting pack.
A further Llandovery infringement at the breakdown allowed Jamie Lennard to open the scoring with a well-stuck penalty from a relatively simple position.
The Yorkshiremen held a clear advantage in the scrum, but the decision to run down the blindside from the back of one of the rumbles left scrum-half Chris Hallam isolated and resulted in a penalty to Llandovery. A deep kick to touch gave the Drovers their first real attack and a clinical line-out followed by a handful of phases culminated with Adam Warren’s inside pass allowing his midfield counterpart Jack Roberts to gallop in for the game’s opening try. Fly-half James Garland converted the extras.
But the Knights struck back immediately. A charge down in the Llandovery 22 won them possession before they expertly spun the ball wide to top-scorer Tyson Lewis, who was hauled down just yards short. The Knights quickly recycled the ball and Lennard darted through the scrambled Welsh defence, but was unable to ground the ball.
The resulting scrum caused chaos in the Drovers set-piece, and after three demolitions of the opposition pack, the Knights were awarded a deserved penalty try. Lennard converted comfortably.
Failure to deal with the Llandovery restart again saw the tide change as a clever kick had home defences clambering to cover, Tyson Lewis retrieved but was forced into touch giving the side from west Wales another lineout close to the Doncaster line.
The Drovers secured good ball and with simple ease rolled hooker Luke Lewis over the whitewash for their second try.
What appeared to be the turning point, came midway through the first half as Knights vice-captain Hallam grabbed a brace of tries from close range, amidst a yellow card for opposition No 8 Luke Kendall, who illegally entered a ruck on his own try-line and cynically killed the play.
Two penalties from the boot of visiting outside-half Garland kept the Drovers in touching distance at 22-18 as the Knights took a deserved lead into the interval.
Both teams struggled to find their rhythm in the second period, but a yellow card for Doncaster’s Tyson Lewis, for failing to wrap his arms in the tackle, handed the advantage to the visitors.
Shortly after, confusion at a Knights line-out permitted visiting captain Lloyd Phillips to charge clear for a converted try, putting his side back in the lead.
This was followed by arguably the game’s most controversial period as hard running and good interplay between the Knights forwards and backs carried them into a promising position and earned the home side a scrum, just metres out.
Again the powerful Knights pack made their presence felt and after three penalties former Scarlets’ stalwart prop Peter Edwards was shown a yellow card for continually collapsing the set-piece under the pressure. But with one prop running on, the other seemingly went lame on the spot as the Drovers tactically opted for uncontested scrums with a ply of genuine gamesmanship.
But it didn’t take the Knights long to score after an equally powerful catch and drive ended with Rhys Buckley touching down inside the corner flag. Lennard added the extras with a sensational kick from out wide.
With just four points the difference and time almost up, the third-placed Welsh Premiership side threw everything at the Yorkshiremen and found their reward with seconds left to play as Scarlets and Llandovery centre Adam Warren managed to scuttle over in the corner, securing a win for his side in the most dramatic of fashions by 30-29.
Doncaster Knights: Lennard, Mama, Simpson, Symons (Tincknell 40), Lewis (Flockhart 57), Braid, Hallam (Silver 71), Davies, Sowery (Buckley 11), Francis (McGovern 59), Hoy (Pailor 59), Parsons, Challinor, Bradford, Planchant.
Scorers – Tries: ‘Penalty’ 14, Hallam 19, 30, Buckley 67. Penalties: Lennard 3. Conversions: Lennard 14, 30, 67.
Llandovery RFC: Rees, Knight (Claypole 70), Warren, Roberts, Jacobs, Garland, R Williams, D Williams (Edwards 29), Lewis (Ball 70), A Jones, S Jones, Griffiths, Phillips, Miles, Kendall (Brooks 60).
Scorers – Tries: Roberts 7, Lewis 17, Phillips 49, Warren 77. Penalties: Garland 22, 34. Conversions: Garland 7, 49.
Referee: R Campbell (RFU).