Doncaster Knights suffered a third successive Championship defeat for the first time in two years as they went down 35-29 to Jersey Reds at St Peter.
But unlike their two previous reversals, Knights didn’t come away empty handed and picked up two bonus points following a spirited second half showing.
Pre-match predictions that it would be a game of two halves as a result of the blustery wind proved to be spot on with both sides being dominant when having the elements in their favour.
Just how dominant the home side, who had lost seven of their previous eight games, were in the first half will have come as a shock for last season’s beaten play-off finalists.
A Doncaster side which had over half-a-dozen players out injured, found themselves trailing 32-7 at the break and seemingly heading for a fourth away defeat in as many games – and a heavy one at that.
Heads appeared to go down at one stage in the first half as the cash-strapped Islanders, who were also without a number of regulars, scored four tries without reply to lead 29-0 at one stage.
But Knights showed they were up for the fight in the second and had they made more of an inroad into Jersey’s lead in the third quarter could have pulled off what would have been a remarkable victory.
The game marked Jersey’s 100th at this level and their first half display, even taking the fact that they had the wind at their backs, will surely go down as one of their best at this level.
Carrying on from how they had finished in their spirited showing in defeat at leaders London Irish, Jersey dominated the game both in attack and defence.
Knights, who will be unhappy at some of the tackling in the build-up to several tries, had hardly ever threatened the Jersey line until wing Tyson Lewis bumped off several defenders to score a 33rd minute try converted by Dougie Flockhart - recalled to the starting line-up in the unaccustomed position of centre.
Knights, who changed both half-backs at the break and also brought on utility-back Sam Edgerley, looked a much-better side in the third quarter. But they failed to make any dent in Jersey’s lead and trailed 35-10 going into the final period and seemingly playing for little more than pride.
But a second try on the hour by prop WillGriff John lifted their spirits, more so as Jersey were reduced to 14 men on 70 minutes when Tongan forward Uili Kolo’ofa’i was sin-binned for a high tackle which denied Edgerley a certain score and flanker Glen Young scored another close-range try from the resulting penalty, the scene was set for a tense finish.
Young bagged his side a bonus point try from Humberstone’s chip in the last minute of normal time which Flockhart converted to give Knights a losing bonus point.
Doncaster Knights: Scanlon; Jarvis, Flockhart, Hayes, Lewis; Cusack, Heaney; Hislop, Hunter, John, Challinor, Nolan, Young, Orr, Williams. Replacements: List, Bergmanas, Sproston, Taylor, White, Humberstone, Edgerley.