VICTORY over their derby rivals has been a long time coming so it is understandable why Doncaster Knights, with No8 Ollie Stedman’s hat-trick of tries central to their success, celebrated so enthusiastically.
It was almost five years ago, in April 2011, when Doncaster last defeated Rotherham Titans, a painful journey since then for them in this South Yorkshire fixture to say the least.
They perhaps made harder work of it than they needed to have done yesterday as, having seen their 12-match unbeaten run ended the week before, they swiftly returned to winning ways to regain second place in the Championship.
Doncaster dominated for large spells in front of the Sky Sports cameras, particularly in the line-out.
That said, Rotherham scored the best try of the game, a fine effort from Jack Hayes after namesake Lloyd’s corruscating break, that saw them go 17-15 ahead early in the second half, and with their spirit and endeavour they looked anything like a side that had lost seven successive games.
However, there was too much inaccuracy for the Titans who will rue a couple of missed penalties, one either side of the break when Ross Jones, agonisingly, hit an upright both times.
The latter was a turning point; from the rebound, Doncaster eventually worked their way downfield and scored themselves via Stedman’s second, thus turning a potential five-point deficit into a three-point advantage.
Stedman grabbed his hat-trick soon after in the 57th minute, the former London Welsh forward scoring all three from line-out drives, the tactic that proved just too difficult to defend for the visitors who are now, worryingly, looking over their shoulders at the wrong end of the Championship table.
Rotherham coach Mark Jones scolded his side for gifting Doncaster the penalties that set up the position to put the rolling maul into effect and you can understand why; even though Titans got back to 27-24 with Toby Williams’ close-range try, Knights replacement Latu Makaafi added a fourth line-out score to rub salt into the wounds after Rotherham full-back Sean Scanlon had foolishly failed to release the ball on his own 22.
The home side had showed great composure given they had lost both goalkicking winger Dougie Flockhart – Simon Humberstone converted Makaafi’s score – and fly-half Declan Cusack to injuries shortly before in the 64th minute, the sort of disruption that could have derailed lesser sides.
Doncaster had also started quickly with Mat Clark scoring their opening try inside just five minutes, the centre busting Scanlon’s tackle with Cusack having already exposed some feeble defence in the previous phase.
However, Jones responded with a penalty and – after Joe Barker botched one try-scoring chance – Rotherham did cross via Scanlon in the 21st minute after some swift hands, Jones converting.
Doncaster’s attacking line-out then came to the fore, though, Alex Shaw more often than not acting as the fulcrum and Stedman reaping the rewards.
The former Yorkshire Carnegie back-row sneaked away to score from one rolling maul in the 26th minute and looked to have done so again soon after with a more lengthy sprint from the back but the video official ruled he had failed to ground correctly after bashing a post.
Flockhart struck a penalty before the break before Jones missed his simple effort, something which would haunt his side later on.
Doncaster are swiftly back in action on Friday when they head to Ealing Trailfinders with Flockhart (biceps) definitely out and Cusack (concussion) likely to be missing, too.
It does not get any easier for Rotherham – leaders Bristol are at Clifton Lane on Saturday having easily swept past Jersey yesterday.
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis; Flockhart (Humberstone 65), Bulumakau, Clark, Hurrell; Cusack (Field 65), Heaney; List (Sprotson 74), Hunter (Stagg 78), Quigley (John 74), Challinor, Phelan, Shaw (Makaafi 62), Hills, Stedman.
Rotherham Titans: Scanlon; Keating, Davies, Barker (Hayes 40), Hayes; Jones (McKinney 58), Carter; Hislop (Williams 58), Harris (Maddison 69), Tampin (Thiede 58), Holmes, Sinclair (Ryan 53), Oram, Calladine (Cree 76), Argyle.
Referee: A Jackson (RFU).