Doncaster Knights 26 Rotherham Titans 13: Finishing power is key factor in derby encounter

ED JACKSON feels Doncaster Knights have the requisite devilment in the backs to break into the Championship's top four.

Doncaster's explosive back division earned the Castle Park men five points in a South Yorkshire derby dominated for long periods by Rotherham.

The Titans controlled possession and bossed territory but had no answer to the raw pace of the hosts, who moved above the Titans and into fifth after their third win in a row.

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The top four of Worcester, London Welsh, Bedford and Cornish Pirates may have a healthy eight-point advantage over the Knights but with more than half the regular season still to go and points carried forward into the promotion play-offs relating to final positions, No 8 Jackson believes Doncaster can still break in.

"This time last year Doncaster were having a bit of trouble but we've come into our own over the last three games and, hopefully, we can carry it on," said the summer acquisition from Bath, whose robust running provided a platform for Doncaster's second-half comeback from 13-7 behind.

"The way the league is set up this year with points carried into the play-offs (three for the top seed down to 0 for the bottom seed) it makes a difference.

"Can we make top four? Why not, even the top three, the main thing is to just keep on improving.

"We've got a lot of pace out wide and as long as we do our jobs as forwards and get them clean ball we'll be dangerous, but it's winning the battle up front first."

It took them a long time to get the better of Rotherham's pack but when they did they cut loose, with fly-half Tristan Roberts's try five minutes into stoppage time denying the Titans the losing bonus point their performance deserved and gave Doncaster a winning bonus.

It was harsh on Rotherham, who slipped to seventh with a defeat which again exposed their lack of ruthlessness.

But as with Doncaster, they have proved on their day they are a match for any team and with both sides in the top eight and destined for a battle for promotion, these are encouraging times for South Yorkshire's two standard-bearers. It is just a pity only 1,830 people turned up to see it.

Doncaster led 7-6 at the break but in a portent of what was to come, it should have been Rotherham ahead.

Andre Bester's men had just two penalties from Juan Socino to show for their endeavour, and a rare foray into the 22 from Doncaster resulted in a slick move finished off by Stevie McColl and converted by Roberts.

Twelve minutes of sustained pressure on the Doncaster line at the start of the second half resulted in a penalty try which Socino converted.

Rotherham should then have put the game to bed with Jonny Hepworth spurning a golden opportunity when he failed to hold Socino's pass and then Peter Swatkins inexplicably chose to run into a tackler when the tryline beckoned on the left.

The turning point came when Roberts launched a ball into orbit which Jonny Hampsey fumbled inside his own 22, allowing Matt Challinor – one of six Knights who were once Titans – to charge forward and recycle the ball to Chris Hallam who spun over the line.

Then, from repeated scrums on the Rotherham line, Steve Boden released the unmarked Dougie Flockhart for a third try.

Roberts's missed conversion gave Rotherham hope and but for a knock-on as he approached the line, Dan Baines would have edged the Titans to within a point of taking the lead.

They were punished for their profligacy when Joe Bedford's kick to touch was quickly transformed into a try for Roberts that left Bester frustrated, but pragmatic.

"The best side for 70 minutes didn't get the rewards," lamented the Rotherham head coach.

"It's not the end of the world, I've said to the players 'this is a marathon'.

"Did I think we did better than I thought we would? Yes I did. I didn't think we could dominate Doncaster but we played good tactical rugby.

"We revisited a few mistakes that have happened before and we'll address those."

Doncaster's director of rugby Howells said: "We are capable of playing right to the end and that has shown throughout the season.

"What we have to do is build a gap between the bottom four and us. Even if we've lost this season we've managed to get bonus points.

"They were above us in the league, so to come away with a bonus point is probably the biggest point of all. It's a big fillip for us."

Doncaster Knights: McColl, Flockhart, Goss, Gidlow, Williams, Roberts, Hallam; Corsar (Frazier 55), Boden (Lawrie 80), Cusack (Thiede 67), Challinor, Kenworthy (James 73), Boyde (Farivarz 80), Cochrane, Jackson. Unused replacements: Jericevich, Lewis-Pratt.

Rotherham Titans: Hunt, Swatkins, Hepworth, Socino, Welding (Hampsey 35, (Godfrey 73)), Hodgson, Bedford; Steenkamp (Quigley 46), Loney, O'Donnell, Harris (Sandford 73), Dickinson, Kettle, Dougall, Burrows (Baines 73). Unused replacements: McGregor, Rhodes.

Referee: M Tutty.

Scorers

Doncaster – tries, McColl, Hallam, Flockhart, Roberts; cons, Roberts 3.

Rotherham: try penalty; cons Socino; pens Socino 2.