Doncaster Knights stretched their unbeaten run to eight games as they beat Newport Gwent Dragons Premiership Select in their B & I Cup Pool Five clash at Castle Park.
But the high-flying Championship side made hard work of beating the Welsh team, who started the day in top spot, and could have suffered a shock defeat
With players getting a rare start keen to impress, and boosted by a 7-2 penalty count, Knights camped in the Dragons half in the first 40 minutes.
But they failed to capitalise on long periods of pressure in the way that supporters have become accustomed to this season, and their disappointing 18-10 interval lead reflected that.
Dragons drew first blood when young fly-half Arwell Robson, who formed a useful half-back pairing with the experienced Charlie Davies, kicked them into a first-minute lead.
But they failed to build on their early success as Knights quickly got into their stride and started to throw the ball about on a playing surface which was a credit to the club’s ground staff given the weather – though conditions deteriorated as the rain fell heavily in the last 20 minutes.
Dragons defended well in open play but they conceded the first of two tries by flanker Latu Makaafi on six minutes from a catch and drive after Knights had elected to kick for position from a kickable penalty.
Dougie Flockhart failed to add the extras but hit the target with a simple penalty shortly after to make it 8-3.
Knights went close to a second try on several occasions - wing Tyson Lewis being involved in a couple of the moves - prior to Makaafi bagging his second try from a catch and drive on 25 minutes. Flockhart’s conversion made it 15-3.
Virtually nothing had been seen of Dragons as an attacking force until just before the break when Davies broke Makaafi’s tackle and raced in from ten metres out for a converted try.
Dragons’ hopes of making further inroads into Knights’ lead wasn’t helped by the fact they had two players sin-binned in the third quarter and were down to 13 men at one stage.
Knights continued to spurn chances, none more so than when Declan Cusack failed to find centre Andy Bulumakau, who had a clear run to the line from 30 metres out, and their only points came from the boot of Flockhart.
A brace of penalties by Robson took Dragons within a converted try of victory and set up a nervy last ten minutes for Knights who survived to take over top spot.
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis; Flockhart, Bulumakau, Clark, Tyson; Cusack, Edgerley; List, Viekoso, Quigley, Hotson, Young, Makaafi, Owen, Shaw. Rep: Hunter, Sprotson, Stagg. Challinor, Hills, Olver, Heaney.
Newport Gwent Dragons: Rhys; Frewen, Brew, Nightingale, Warren, Robson, Davies, Garrett, Gustafson, Brown, Andrews, Brown, Crocker,Cudd, Keddie. Rep: Buckley, Cornock, Jeffries, Sweet, Matthews, Davies, Edwards.
Refeee: Stuart Gaffikin (IRFU)