Doncaster Knights ended their Championship campaign on a winning note with a 19-16 win over relegated Plymouth Albion at Brickfields.
Knights’ second double of the season saw them finish 22 points clear of the relegation spot on their return to the second tier of English rugby.
They put paid to any relegation fears that supporters may have had during a run of nine consecutive league defeats, thanks to a strong finish which brought them three wins and a draw in their last six league games as well as picking up losing bonus points in their other two games.
They held on to ninth position but missed out on a coveted top-eighth spot following Jersey’s 40-21 bonus-point win over visiting Moseley.
Knights acknowledged in the build-up that Jersey were firm favourites to see off the challenge of second-bottom Moseley – though they had never previously beaten them – and the result was a foregone conclusion way before the break.
Playing with a lot of spirit for a side relegated a week earlier,Albion led 11-5 at the end of a scrappy first half during which both sides struggled to come to terms with the greasy conditions following overnight rain.
Captain Declan Cusack touched down following a quickly-taken tap penalty following a scrum infringement.
Knights drew level on 15 minutes when flanker Latu Makaafi, who scored a similar try the week before, touched down from a rolling maul.
The Devon club, who worked hard to disrupt Knights’ rhythm, added to their tally with a brace of penalties by fly-half Cusack.
Albion had man sin-binned just before the break and breathed a collective sigh of relief when Knights failed to capitalise on a forward drive on the whistle.
Albion found themselves down to 13 men shortly after the restart during which time Knights scored two converted tries to lead 19-11.
Full-back Paul Jarvis initiated the first after fielding a kick and helping to create the chance, which he took well, for centre Mat Clark.
Makaafi then broke from a ruck before giving the supporting Bevon Armitage the chance to score against one of his former clubs.
Knights, who had lost skipper Michael Hills in the first half, looked home and dry at that stage – they certainly would have been had Clark not been stopped just short after latching on to a loose ball.
But a 77th try by centre Toby Howley-Berridge set-up a grandstand finish during which only a try-saving tackle by hooker Vili Veikoso denied the home side the spoils.
Plymouth: Rayner; Arnott, Howley-Berridge, Koteczky, Kohler; Cusack Setter; Harrison,Penman, Pullinger, Hicks, Beukeboom, Bone, Grace, Grieve. Rep: Stagg, Head, Fidler, Jubb, Warner, Davies, Homan
Knights: Jarvis; Flockhart, Clark, Armitage, Lewis, Roberts, Field; List, Hunter, Quigley,Challinor,Hotson, Makaafi,Hills, Stedman. Rep: Bergmanas,Veikoso, Eggleshaw, John, Foden,Fosita, Bravo.