Stand-in head coach Tommy McGee hailed the character of his Yorkshire Carnegie side after they overcame a second-half onslaught to kick on and clinch a first victory in four games at Aberavon on Friday night.
Carnegie have endured a torrid period in their history, with two defeats and a woeful draw at home to Plympugh 10 days ago culminating in the departure of head coach Gary Mercer, less than three months after he was appointed.
They have also had a point deducted in the British and Irish Cup for fielding an ineligible player in the first meeting with Aberavon, which they won 85-0 at Hull Ionians.
McGee’s men looked on course for a similarly emphatic win on Friday in Wales in the fourth round of B&I Cup fixtures when they led 24-0, only for Aberavon to drag the score back to 29-29.
Carnegie went on to win 43-32 and keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition.
McGee, the former Scotland A prop, said: “It’s a big challenge ahead of us, we know that,” said McGee, who oversaw pre-season training in the summer before the arrival of Mercer.
“We talked beforehand of the character we need to show as coaches, players and as a club; everybody pulling together to ensure we can move forward, and move forward pretty quick.
“We need to keep endeavouring to pull that character out when it’s required and it was required at Aberavon.”
Jonah Holmes ran in a hat-trick of tries while David McIlwaine added a fourth to make it 24-0 in as many minutes.
But the consecutive sin-binnings of Charlie Beech and Chris Walker handed the initiative to the home side who roared back into the contest.
“We went through a little patch of errors, and we’re a little disappointed with our fringe defence which let them in and raised their spirits and got them back in it. They got a bit closer than we’d have liked,” said McGee.
“The sin-binnings were big as it put us into positions we didn’t want to be in.
“But these are the positions we are going to be finding ourselves in. We’ll learn quickly from this and then go into Ulster (next Sunday) taking what we’ve learned.”
But overall, McGee – who has been handed the reins for the three games of B&I Cup action, was pleased with the way his side played.
McGee said: “We made quite a few errors but endeavoured to play some rugby and we’re going to commit to that to make the improvement we want.
“It was a tough old game but we’re trying things.
“It’s not going to happen overnight but I was really pleased with the way the guys responded to their pressure points and stuck to what we want to do.”
Doncaster Knights head to Cornish Pirates on Saturday for what is effectively a Pool 4 decider.
Clive Griffiths’s side claimed a creditable 17-15 win at Bedford Blues on Friday and with it a place in the quarter-finals after four wins from four, and a victory over the Pirates will ensure home-field advantage.