DONCASTER KNIGHTS managed to retain their advantage at the top of National One, but only after snatching a late victory at struggling Tynedale.
After the third-bottom hosts had been awarded a second penalty try of the match, which when converted by Gavin Beasley gave them a 26-24 lead with only four minutes of normal time remaining, it looked as though Clive Griffiths’s side had suffered an unexpected stumble on their mission to return to the Championship.
But captain Matt Challinor made forward pressure tell and powered his way over the line for a crucial victory which kept the Knights seven points ahead of nearest rivals Rosslyn Park, who stayed in touch after beating third-placed Fylde 16-7.
The Knights had been forced to battle all afternoon, finding themselves 19-11 down at the break following two tries from Benjamin Franklin and an earlier penalty try for Tynedale. Bruno Bravo’s try and two penalties from Douglar Flockhart had kept Doncaster in touch.
Two further penalties from Flockhart after the restart made it 19-17 before, in the 58th minute, the visitors eventually got themselves in front once again after centre Mat Clark picked up from the breakdown to run in untouched, with Flockhart adding the extras.
The 76th-minute penalty try for Tynedale then looked to have undone all the hard work in Doncaster’s comeback before Challinor struck.
Hull Ionians remain rooted to the foot of the table after a 36-12 defeat at home to Blackheath.
Ionians were no match for the visitors, who ran in six tries on their way to a five-point victory, and remain 22 points adrift.
Flanker Mark Wigham put the hosts into the lead after 13 minutes but his try went unconverted, and 10 minutes later Blackheath hit back with wing-forward David Allen touching down.
Although the conversion was missed, left winger Dante Mama was on target with the extras following a 38th-minute try from stand-off Simon Whatling. Centre James Tincknell then crashed over in first-half stoppage time, Mama converting as Blackheath opened a 19-5 lead at the break.
They extended their lead with second-row Tom Bason touching down, and scrum-half Jack Walsh adding another, Mama converting to put Blackheath 31-5 ahead.
Ionians’ No 8 Alex Campbell pulled back a try on the hour- mark and scrum-half Isaac Green converted.
But there was to be no dramatic fightback and Blackheath had the last word with Allen adding his second try late on.