DONCASTER director of rugby Clive Griffiths has seen little need to make use of the ‘hairdryer’ treatment this season.
His table-topping side have, as expected, often mercilessly swept past National One foes as they plotted an immediate return to the Championship.
However, seeing them just 15-12 up at half-time against a Wharfedale team who initially looked like flustered schoolboys, left the usually restrained Welshman seeing red, understandably given the fixture’s huge significance.
Doncaster had, of course, suffered a potentially-damaging loss at promotion rivals Rosslyn Park the previous week, leaving their hold on the crucial first place in a perilous state.
Another setback would have been catastrophic so you can imagine the state of unease on Saturday when, in the 48th minute, Wharfedale capitalised on yet another home error for winger Scott Jordan to scamper 70m for his second and take the lead.
It was a sign of Doncaster’s new-found trepidation – at 15-0 up after 13 minutes they were freely running amok and fully expecting to secure a try bonus point before the break – that they gladly accepted a kickable penalty just to quickly regain the lead.
Then, on 52 minutes, Tom Barrett, the former Doncaster fly-half who had inspired Wharfedale’s surprise win between the sides at Threshfield in January, threw one too many ambitious passes and Dougie Flockhart intercepted to gleefully sprint over.
The relief among the Doncaster fraternity was palpable. Wharfedale, who had shown such adventure to get back into the game, looked instantly broken.
Flockhart added another penalty before No 8 Adam Kettle secured that bonus point in the 62nd minute.
Then, captain Matt Challinor, Jamie Lennard, Bravo and – with his second – rapid winger Tyson Lewis all added tries as full-time Doncaster’s superior fitness finally told against opponents from the Yorkshire Dales.
It means they head to third-placed Coventry for Saturday’s penultimate fixture with destiny still in their own hands.
Griffiths turned 60 during the week but must have felt nearer 100 when his side imploded.
“We were 15-0 up, coasting and then just decided to push the pass,” he recalled.
“It let them back in. As their coach said, they thought we were nervy at half-time. Well, I wasn’t nervy, it was paint-stripping.
“I let rip. I’d thought about what I was going to say – there was a few technical things – but then I just thought we needed a rev’ up.
“It had the desired effect as we attacked, attacked, attacked but then they ended up scoring so we gifted 12 points in total.
“But, I’m pleased with the turnaround from last week. Now we just have to win two games. If we play with that intent – we have to be more accurate – we’ll do it.”
Doncaster lost forwards Roberto Santamaria (broken arm) and Chris Walker (fractured cheekbone) against Wharfedale who responded with real flair after going behind to Matt Clark and Lewis tries.
Full-back Taylor Prell scored a great try on his league debut after the excellent flanker Aaron Myers had taken a quick penalty tap before Jordan got his first after an ill-conceived loose pass from Doncaster’s Michael Hills.
Barnett converted the first to leave Wharfedale on the verge of something special.
“When I scored that second try I thought it could be our day – we could be the only team to do the double over Doncaster,” said the 22-year-old Jordan. “But we just ran out of steam. We’re a young side learning every week but 15 guys who come together on Saturday and give it our all. It’s a lovely club to play with.”
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis; Flockhart, Clark (Woodhouse 70), Armitage, Lewis; Roberts (Lennard 70), Bravo; List (Brugnara 64), Santamaria (Hunter 44), Davies, Challinor, Kenworthy, Walker (Kenny 61), Hills, Kettle.
Wharfedale: Prell T; Jordan, Scarbrough (Davidson 80), Davidson, Prell J; Barrett, Dudman; Steel, Cole (Stockdale 71), Armstrong (Howard 20), Rhodes (Brown 71), Powell, Burridge, Myers (Bullough 80), Baldwin.
Referee: A Jackson (RFU).