NEVER could Doncaster Knights have imagined toasting a Richmond lock by the name of Chris Davies on Saturday night.
However, that is what all involved with the South Yorkshire club will have been doing after a player more than 170 miles away scored a try that effectively cemented their place in the Championship play-offs for a second year running.
Having beaten fifth-placed Jersey on a glorious day at Castle Park, Doncaster had fulfilled their principal aim.
However, as they left the pitch, they realised they would still have more work to do at home against leaders London Irish in their final regular game next Saturday to secure the all-important fourth spot.
At that point, sixth-placed Cornish Pirates, who had kept their own hopes alive with a 34-17 defeat of Knights a fortnight earlier, were in the box seat.
They were heading towards a bonus point win at Richmond which, if repeated against struggling Bedford Blues, would in all likelihood see them pip Doncaster to the semi-final places.
The calculators were out; if Cornish did indeed gain maximum points, Doncaster would have to glean at least three from that Irish fixture, clearly an invidious position against the promotion favourites.
Granted, a draw and try bonus point would do that but the Exiles have won 18 of their 19 league games this term so…
However, Pirates had kicked off half-an-hour later than the game at Castle Park so, it was not until later, with most fans back in the bar working out the maths, that a huge cheer erupted from Doncaster’s players and staff ensconced in their changing room.
That was soon followed by music being turned up to its highest volume and an order to get some beers heading that way immediately.
We’ve worked really hard for two weeks now and it showed today. All credit to the boys and staff for putting us in the right mind-frame and we got the important win.Doncaster Knights’ captain, Michael Hills
It had emerged bottom-placed Richmond, the part-timers who had struggled for most of an arduous campaign since winning promotion and had been 21-7 down against Cornish, had rallied to win 35-32 courtesy of Davies’s late, late try.
All of which meant Doncaster’s lead in fourth place was unassailable.
Captain Michael Hills emerged and admitted: “We’re all really pleased by that.
“We knew today would be a tough game and we had to win to give ourselves a chance.
“After two weeks ago against Pirates, we needed to put a performance in. We let ourselves down back then and were disappointed with the performance across the board.
“We’ve worked really hard for two weeks now and it showed today. All credit to the boys and staff for putting us in the right mind-frame and we got the important win.
“Richmond have obviously played well, too, and snuck a win at the end of the day.
“To get in the play-offs is fantastic for this club and for the players. We’re all very excited.”
Doncaster only trail by two points third-placed Ealing Trailfinders, who round off at Yorkshire Carnegie – safe in second – on Saturday but, in all likelihood, their two-legged semi-final will be against Irish.
Flanker Hills, who led Knights to the final last term in their first play-offs appearance, added: “We’ve trained with that in mind, thinking we’d need to get something from Irish next week.
“Obviously, Jersey was our first box to tick off and they came and played very well today. We had to be at our best.
“We all then stayed in the changing room on the internet waiting to hear and obviously celebrated when knowing we’d reached the play-offs again.
“It’s most likely it will be three games in a row against Irish now but we’ll look forward to that challenge and we’ll do exactly the same.”
On Saturday, goal-kicking winger Dougie Flockhart contributed 19 points, his stylish 54th-minute try proving the killer moment, as Doncaster ruthlessly ended Jersey’s 10-match winning run.
Indeed, the visitors’ only score in the second period was deep into stoppage-time when former Knights prop Jake Armstrong charged over with the final play, Brendan Cope converting.
Jersey were left to rue on-loan Bristol star Callum Sheedy’s two missed penalties, including one from almost in front of the posts.
Doncaster winger Tyson Lewis sprinted in after 10 minutes following Flockhart’s crucial intercept on the opposite flank. His side then coped admirably having conceded a first half penalty try that also saw prop Richard List sin-binned, actually regaining the lead when down to 14 men.
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis; Flockhart, Bulumakau, Hayes, Lewis; Humberstone, Heaney; List (Bergmanas 56), Hunter (Nelson 67), Quigley (Sprotson 63), Challinor (Williams 63), Young, Ram (Bergmanas 28-31 Edgerley 77), Hills (Carpenter 67), Shaw.
Jersey Reds: Cuthbert; Watkins, Davies, Ma’afu, Scott; Sheedy (Cope 51), Hardy (Dudley 69); Woolmore (McCarthy 57), Buckle (Selway 57), Kerrod, Phillips, McKern (Kolo’ofai 47), Freeman, Graham, Hainine.
Referee: Greg McDonald (RFU).