HE may have only played 80 minutes with them, but Laurence Pearce, the Leicester Tigers back-row, has seen enough to be confident that Doncaster Knights will not become embroiled in another Championship relegation battle.
The huge forward is more keenly associated with Rotherham Titans after a seminal two-year stint at Clifton Lane earned him a move to the former European powerhouse last summer.
However, he proved a useful addition to their South Yorkshire rivals on Saturday after debuting on dual-registration.
This said, Pearce was unable to prevent another defeat which, it cannot be disguised, was hugely frustrating for Doncaster, who missed a perfect opportunity to move away from second bottom.
Instead, it is Jersey, with only their third win of the season and a first in nine outings, who gain some breathing space.
Doncaster, despite showing real character to fight back from a 23-9 half-time deficit that could easily have been greater given the destructive nature of Jersey’s driving maul, have not won in the league for four months.
Only bottom-placed Plymouth Albion sit below them, in the relegation spot, but if they mount any sort of revival, promoted Knights will suddenly be nervy.
However, Pearce, who operated at blindside flanker, said: “It’s been brilliant here this week and they’re good enough to stay up.
“Skills have been good, they’ve got a great structure, they like to play rugby – a big contrast to Jersey when they‘re mauling like they did – and if they keep those skills up and play, they will be fine.
“That first half was very tough. The way Jersey like to play rugby, they are big boys and they just like to truck it up.
“We struggled with our maul defence. We got them a couple of times, but it was difficult and, with the snow coming down as well… it’s always good to be back up north.
“But we got in the changing room at half-time and told each other we needed to start fronting up and we did that.
“We were pretty much in there but just couldn’t get over the line.
“In that last 10 or 15 minutes we had plenty of chances.
“It’s a shame we didn’t get over but we got a bonus point which is good as every point is needed.”
Those final stages were, indeed, nerve-shredding for the home side.
Dougie Flockhart’s fourth penalty in the 77th minute, Jonny Bentley having become the second desperate Jersey player to be yellow-carded as their discipline waned under pressure, had got them in touching distance.
When the visitors infringed again deep into stoppage-time, Doncaster kicked to the corner to set up a gilt-edged chance.
However, not for the first time, Jersey lock Nick Campbell crucially stole the lineout to deny Clive Griffiths’s side.
They still probed and Harry Thacker, the lively England Under-20s hooker also debuting on dual-registration from Leicester, made a half-break but his inside pass only found ground and then there was no one in position at the back of a ruck, allowing Jersey to hack 40m back up field.
Scrum-half Tomasi Palu had scored Doncaster’s only try in the 57th minute with a quickly-taken tap penalty and jinking run, Flockhart’s kick making it 23-16.
Yet they immediately lost all momentum by cheaply gifting ex-Leeds Carnegie player Bentley his fourth penalty of the afternoon.
But the real damage had been done in that error-prone first period, prop Harry Williams benefitting from one of those driving mauls and Drew Locke also scoring after a wildly inaccurate pass from Thacker, who, that aside, was a threat in the loose. Matt Challinor was also sin-binned.
Doncaster have the sanctuary of the British & Irish Cup this Saturday when they host Munster A in the quarter-finals.
Pearce is heading back to Leicester where he could make his fifth appearance for the club in the LV=Cup game v Northampton.
“I’m loving it down there, training is great and I’m learning a lot from people like Tom Croft, Jordan Crane, Robert Barbieri and Julian Salvi,” he said.
“The pace is very different. That’s the main difference.
“It is very fast, the Premiership. The collisions in the Championship can sometimes be bigger, but the Premiership is very quick.
“It was good to get a run-out with Donny, though. There’s a few boys here who have come through from Rotherham and a few others I know so it was enjoyable.”
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis; Flockhart, Catchpole, Armitage, Lewis; Roberts Francis 49), Palu; List (Bergmanas 54), Thacker, Quigley (Davies 73), Challinor, Phelan (Hotson 62), Pearce, Hills, Shaw (Makaafi 54). Unused: Hunter, Francis.
Jersey: Pointer; Foster, Locke, Robling, McCrea (Penberthy 39); Bentley, Fisilau (Glynn 80); Lockwood (Selway 73), Buckle, Williams, Campbell, Phillips (Lancura 48-58, Markham 72), Noone, Hodson, Haining (Kaho 63). Unused: Herriott.
Referee: S Harding (RFU).