A BRACE of tries from lively scrum-half Tom James helped set up Doncaster Knights’ first win in six games but they were certainly frustrated at times by Yorkshire Carnegie.
When Guy Graham was sin-binned for a professional foul at the start of the second half, Doncaster scored a penalty try from the resulting scrum and Sam Olver’s kick made it 28-5.
From there, they really should have taken firm control but, through a combination of poor decision-making and some decent Carnegie defence, they failed to do so.
Instead, the winless hosts – who remain bottom after a 13th successive defeat of the campaign – fought back with two tries of their own and were perhaps unlucky not to at least gain a fourth try and bonus point.
That said, Doncaster, with forwards Matt Challinor and Rory Pitman as industrious as ever, were not being too harsh on themselves; they simply needed a win more than anything to put some distance between themselves and their derby rivals.
They moved a place up to ninth with their third league victory of the campaign and will now build into 2020 a lot more positively.
Director of rugby Clive Griffiths said: “We were absolutely delighted.
“There was a few rough edges in there today and we’re disappointed with the three tries conceded.
“However, we came for five points, we got the five points and Merry Christmas.
“We got some bodies back this week who were able to train. Unfortunately (lock) Matt Smith had to pull out on Saturday which was disappointing.
“He got another punch to the solar plexus but everyone recovers from that.
“I just thought we put a shift in. It was frustrating we didn’t put more points on the board but due respect to the opposition for getting their bodies in the way.
“I thought we were comfortable and I’m just delighted really that we finished off the year with a win and now we can look forward to a much better second half of the season.”
Steve McColl’s clever kick just before the hour mark saw Tyson Lewis race in for their fifth try before Carnegie made their push.
Adam Brown, the 18-year-old hooker who excelled for the home side, benefitted from a catch and drive, and they were in again soon after when their forwards edged closer through pick and go before Sione Faletau finally muscled over.
Ryan Shaw converted both only for flanker Alex Humfrey to become their second player yellow-carded, allowing Fotu Lokotui to have the last word.
Earlier, Doncaster should have gone in 21-0 ahead after Robin Hislop scored their third try of the afternoon in the 36th minute and that would have been about par for the course.
However, they failed to deal with the restart and that saw Carnegie get some reward for their endeavour.
Player-coach Joe Ford had hung every such kick above Tyson Lewis and, this time, the Doncaster winger failed to take it cleanly.
Tom Varndell, the former England winger who remains the Premiership’s greatest try-scorer, does not need a second invite and he dashed over in a flash.
Carnegie had defended well for long periods, not least when a Doncaster driving line-out seemed certain to end in a visiting try. The hosts somehow managed to get back on top to halt the momentum and – after tempers frayed – they also earned a penalty from the resulting scrum to leave Knights’ forwards doubly miffed.
To make matters worse, Doncaster also infringed at the line-out as Carnegie marched up the other end of the field.
However, Ford’s side never truly forced any pressure of their own in that first period.
He made a half-break of his own to set up promising position but it came to nothing as Graham - who came up with some fine defensive hits - spilled a couple of phases later.
After one penalty, they won the line-out only for Conor Davidson to be caught not releasing. They could ill-afford to be so wasteful knowing the strength of the Doncaster side.
Knights had eased into a 14-0 lead inside just 13 minutes with James scoring both tries.
The first came after forwards Challinor and Ollie Stedman combined beautifully to break Carnegie up the middle and the second following a spilled ball from Dan Lancaster after Ford’s attempted run-around. Sam Olver converted both but, in between, struck an upright with a penalty when his side should really have gone to the corner after hammering Carnegie in the scrum.
It mattered not in the end as they ended that five-match losing streak.
Yorkshire Carnegie: Robins; Lawson, Varndell, Lancaster , Shaw; Ford, Elliot; Davidson, Brown, Smith (Faletau 58), Brady, Bloodworth (Whitehurst 62), Lloyd (Sugars 62), Humfrey, Graham.
Doncaster Knights: McColl (Cowell 71); Packman, Hayes, Foley, Lewis (Evans 61); Olver, James (Pocklington 71); Hislop (Thomas 53), Hunter (Edgson 59), Quigley (Suter 53), Challinor, Pitman (Sprotson 69), Calladine (Lokotui 66), Conradie, Stedman.
Referee: Neil Chivers (RFU)