Doncaster Knights booked their place in the Championship play-offs for a second successive season.
By beating Jersey 24-20 at Castle Park in their penultimate league game of the season, Knights put paid to the fifth-placed Reds’ hopes with lowly Richmond later dashing Cornish Pirates’ hopes of a top-four finish.
Knights knew that they would have to pull out all the stops to beat a Jersey side unbeaten in any competition since New Year’s Day, and they did just that.
It wasn’t a perfect performance and they will need to be better in Saturday’s home home game against runaway leaders London Irish who they look likely to meet in the play-off semi-finals.
But no-one could fault their spirit and determination in a must-win game for both sides which had the intensity of a cup final.
All the front-row and their replacements more than stood their ground in the physical forward battle and No 8 Alex Shaw also caught the eye.
There were some impressive individual performances by the back division with wing Dougie Flockhart (above) leading the way with a 19-point haul.
Knights led 16-13 at half-time - though it would have been 16-16 had Jersey fly-half Callum Sheedy converted a 40th minute penalty - after a keenly-contested first half during which tempers often boiled over.
Flockhart, whose last-minute conversion at St Peter in December secured Knights an unlikely losing bonus point after they had trailed 32-7 at the break, opened the scoring with a second minute penalty, adding a second after Sheedy had levelled the scores.
He then saved a certain try, pulling off an interception a couple of metres out after Jersey, whose huge pack had tested the home forwards and moved the ball along the line at pace.
After looking set to go behind, Knights extended their lead when centre Andy Bulumakau got clear on the opposite flank and sent wing Tyson Lewis racing in unopposed from his own half. Flockhart tagged on the extras to make it 13-3.
Jersey hit back with a Sheedy penalty and a converted try from a driving maul. Sheedy missed another chance to level the scores early in the second half and his side fell further behind when Flockhart elected to go for the line himself from ten metres out rather than use lively full-back Paul Jarvis on his outside.
The Scot failed to add the extras but hit the mark with a 71st minute penalty to leave Jersey needing to score twice and convert one to win in the last ten minutes.
They did pull one back through Jake Armstrong to bag a losing bonus point but it was too little too late.
Knights: Jarvis, Flockhart, Bulumakau,Hayes, Lewis, Humberstone, Heaney; List, Hunter, Quigley, Challinor, Young, Ram, Hills Shaw. Rep: Bergmanas, Nelson Sproston, Williams,Carpenter, Edgerley,
Referee: Greg MacDonald.