IT was unlucky 13 for Doncaster Knights today as their 12-match unbeaten run finally came to an end.
Jersey, who had drawn twice with the South Yorkshire side during that sequence, finally got the better of Clive Griffiths’ side courtesy of Fautua Otto’s last-minute try.
However, Doncaster still finished top of Pool Five in the British & Irish Cup, a point ahead of the Channel Islands, and so secure a home quarter-final draw.
Nevertheless, they will be kicking themselves at missing out here, having been ahead for most of the encounter and they must now quickly regroup ahead of next Sunday’s crucial televised home Championship game with struggling rivals Rotherham Titans.
Doncaster started strongest this afternoon, showing plenty of ambition with the ball in hand, but were only rewarded by Dougie Flockhart’s eighth minute penalty.
Instead, Jersey went on to dominate territory, mainly down to numerous scrums needing to be reset in the hosts’ half.
Referee Michael Hudson deemed it was the visitors’ who generally had the upper hand in this set-piece, with more than 20 scrums taking place, much to the annoyance of Griffiths’ side who insisted it was Jersey tighthead Oli Tomaszcyk illegally causing most of the issues.
Given the pressure they were under, Knights did well to go in at 3-3, Brendan Cope having levelled in the 19th minute with a penalty after more scrum mayhem.
That said, the home side did have a couple of striking opportunities from deep.
Scrum-half Michael Heaney cleverly unleashed Flockhart down the blindside, the winger’s long kick just evading his chasing team-mates, before fly-half Declan Cusack’s lovely inside pass saw left winger Tyson Lewis streak clear only to throw an awful pass into touch.
Jersey were also reduced to 14 men just before half-time when Heaney took a quick penalty tap and their centre Otto was nowhere near 10m back.
The game was crying out for some running rugby in the second period and Doncaster delivered it as Cusack moved the ball sharply to the right where Paul Jarvis chipped ahead and Flockhart was narrowly denied.
Knights forced Jersey off the resulting scrum, though, and after centre Andy Bulumakau surged close, Heaney showed wonderful footwork to skip over for the game’s first try in the 44th minute.
Flockhart improved and Heaney thought he might be in again straight after when Lewis found Cusack to sprint down the touchline but the fly-half had marginally stepped into touch before finding his scrum-half.
Flockhart added another penalty as Jersey struggled to cope with Doncaster’s injection of pace but, with Otto now back on the field, the visitors swiftly responded as some impressive handling from their forwards led to lock Pierce Phillips crashing over for Cope to make it 13-10.
Flockhart added his third penalty on the hour mark only for Jersey to take the lead for the first time when a driving maul saw Gary Graham’s try improved by Cope.
The visitors failed to deal with the restart, though, and conceded a scrum penalty for Flockhart to regain the advantage at 19-17.
However, after Jarvis and Simon Humberstone denied Otto in the corner, Jersey set up one more driving maul to edge closer.
The ball was then moved to Rory Jennings, the on-loan Bath fly-half only just on the field who showed real class to find Otto on an inside run, the centre busting tackles to reach over, Cope completing the job in a dramatic finale.
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis; Flockhart, Bulumakau, Clark, Lewis; Cusack (Humberstone 68), Heaney; List (Pasquali 68), Hunter (Veikoso 65), Quigley (Sprotson 68), Challinor (Phelan 65), Hotson, Makaafi, Hills, Stedman (Shaw 65).
Jersey: Ross; Thomas, Fautua, Cooke, Lane; Cope (Jennings 77), Fisulau (Winter-Moates 61); Lockwood (Sainz-Lancuba 68), Selway (Garcia-Veiga 50), Tomaszcyk (Kerrod 46), Phillips, Rowlands (Koolafai 61), Freeman (Rae 45), Graham, Haining.
Referee: Michael Hudson (RFU)