NATIONAL LEAGUE ONE: Pertemps Bees 22 Doncaster Knights 20
If Pertemps Bees are to rival Harry Houdini in the annals of great escapes then this most unlikely of victories against the might of North Yorkshire might well be seen as a season turning point.
Bees were second bottom, scrapping for their life, against a full-time outfit sitting comfortably in third spot.
When the visitors went 7-0 up in the first minute and were two tries to the good before some Bees fans had taken their seats, it seemed that the runners-up spot was the best Bees could hope for in this particular encounter.
But that is to ignore the remarkable resilience of this Bees side which, when they can eliminate the basic errors, look a side in a very false league position. Knights ignored that at their peril, especially after going 12-0 up in fewer than ten minutes.
The kick-off went to hooker Ben Phillips who jinked his way from inside his own 22 to the Bees' half where he put flanker Tom Luke in under the posts with only 21 seconds gone. Fly half Cerith Rees added the extras.
Eight minutes later a rare period of Bees possession ended with the traditional gift to the opposition, this time in the shape of a long, somewhat optimistic pass on the left which was snapped up by Knights' winger Donovan Van Vuuren on the halfway line who had a clear run for 12-0. Rees, who had earlier missed a penalty, also missed the simple conversion. It was to prove costly.
Bees, who then lost full back Reece Spee with a back injury, regrouped and on 22 minutes a break through the middle saw flanker Will Matthews go in by the posts. Fly half John Higgins converted as he did eight minutes later
after sustained Bees' pressure saw Matthews, again, driven over. The underdogs had bitten back to 14-12.
The lead was extended at the start of the second half with a 40-metre Higgins penalty. Rees landed one of his own but when Knights' prop Ngau Tau was yellow-carded on 53 minutes for foul play Bees were ready to take advantage.
A kick and chase down the line by full back Marika Vakacegu ended with scrum half Nicky Griffiths touching down. Higgins missed the conversion but Bees were a converted score ahead at 22-15.
Doncaster pressed and Van Vuuren found a second in the corner to leave former Bees fly half Mark Woodrow, on for Rees, a chance to level. He missed to set up a tense finale but Bees not only hung on but came within inches of a bonus point as they camped on the Knights' line for half of the ten minutes remaining.
Coach Russell Earnshaw, who left for New Zealand with England Sevens after the match, said: "The boys have been brilliant. We have been playing well and have been inches away. But at half time we got that monkey off our back and decided we were not going to lose this one.
"I said to the boys if a side turns up and they rest five or six players against you they are looking beyond you and doing you a disservice."
The rugby was not quite BaaBas with Bees forwards hanging on to possession as if their lives depended on it, which in terms of National One survival they do, but Earnshaw said: "At this stage I really do not care if we play the worst rugby in the world and win 3-0, we need to win games. That is the situation we are in. If we could not win this game there was some-thing wrong. We were playing at home and fighting for our lives."
PERTEMPS BEES: Spee (Knight D 17); Vakacegu, Grove, Maggs (Knight P 68), Aston; Higgins, Griffiths; Long (Redelinghuys 68), Pearle (Bick 72), Bucknall, Davidson, Gabey (Halavatau 69), Earnshaw, Matthews, McComb. Replacements: Kazombiaze. Mangeolles DONCASTER: Davies; Bailei, Hunt, Davey, Van Vuuren; Rees (Woodrow 59), Jones B; Toke (List 51), Phillips (Boden 44), Tau, Faaoso (Griffiths 65), Kenworthy, Jones J (Davies 55), Luke, Planchant. Replacements: Cook, Storey.