FOR Andy Bulumakau, a Fijian raised in Scotland but playing for Doncaster Knights via Gloucester, life is good right now.
With an extended run in the side expected due to Dougie Flockhart’s injury, two stunning tries helped down rivals Yorkshire Carnegie as the South Yorkshire club proved once more unbreakable in the Championship.
Indeed, the only way Saturday could have improved for the winger was if he had completed his hat-trick in the breathtaking final few moments that decided a classic derby encounter.
Bulumakau, with his pace and trickery, had been a thorn in Carnegie’s side so it was no surprise that he appeared to set up the crucial play with just seconds of normal time left.
Down to 14 men after Tyler Hotson’s yellow card, and trailing 28-27, Declan Cusack had narrowly missed a penalty to leave Doncaster still trailing.
However, the Irish fly-half got one more opportunity to have a decisive impact; his deft chip to the right wing bounced wickedly to deceive Carnegie full-back Jonah Holmes and Bulumakau was seemingly destined for his treble.
From nowhere, however, tireless No 8 Ryan Burrows dragged down the winger, who still managed to offload for Mat Clark, who, in turn, was desperately hauled in by David Doherty, the Carnegie winger, whose two second-half tries had put them in a match-winning position.
Nevertheless, following the next phase, with the visiting defence scrambling in vain, the ball was moved wide to the left where – fittingly given both their sterling efforts up front – Matt Challinor supplied captain Michael Hills to sneak in and prompt wild scenes of jubilation.
“I’d just managed to get up and catch my breath when I saw Hillsy stroll over,” admitted Bulumakau.
“I was so happy – delighted – as I knew how hard we’d worked for this game.
“We always had massive belief as a team, we knew Leeds would want to come and play like they did and it took us until the dying seconds but we got there.
“I did think I’d scored myself. I thought I’d get a third gear by then but was just held short.
“The eight got me last season, too, when I came through the 22 so that’s twice now.”
For all of Burrows’ endeavour, it was not enough and Carnegie, who would have replaced Doncaster in second place with victory, will be smarting.
After Simon Humberstone’s side-stepping try for the hosts in the 47th minute – openside Hills had done brilliantly to almost create a treble for Bulumakau just prior to it – the visitors had trailed 24-11 but fought back to score three tries to turn the contest on its head.
Winger Seb Stegmann started and then came Doherty’s slick brace, Carnegie, like Doncaster, refreshingly showing that their game is not all about line-out drives.
With an extra man, they should have seen out this game but their discipline waned at the critical point and, instead, it was the home side who finished strongest to stretch their unbeaten run in the league to 10 matches.
Doncaster had mixed their game well, implementing fresh moves that caught Carnegie off-guard, not least the splendid midfield link that saw Bulumakau unleash full-back Paul Jarvis from halfway and then support himself in the first half.
“I was just hoping Jarv’ would go all the way,” he said, about the player who departed soon after with a serious foot injury that will prompt Clive Griffiths to scour for a replacement this week.
“But then I supported him and it was great to score as it was one we’d worked on for this week knowing how they defend. We tried something new hoping it’d pay off in the game and it did.”
With Kevin Sinfield not selected, Carnegie’s Harry Leonard had an off-day with the boot, converting just one of their four tries. That, too, was costly but the way this Doncaster team is playing you sense they would have found a way to win regardless.
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis (Humberstone 38); Bulumakau, Clark, Hurrrell, Tyson; Cusack, Heaney; List (Pasquali 63), Hunter (Stagg 73), Quigley (John 63), Challinor, Phelan (Hotson 63), Makaafi (Young 76), Hills, Shaw. Unused: Field.
Yorkshire Carnegie: Holmes; Stegmann, Lucock (Hodgson 59), Casson (Forsyth 49), Doherty; Leonard, Pilgrim; Beech (Boyce 67), Nilsen, O’Donnell (Hooper 67), Schofield, Smith, Jones (Williams 40), Saull (Walker 56), Burrows. Unused: Graham.
Referee: L Pearce (RFU).