The Ulster Ravens make it four wins from four in this season’s British & Irish Cup with a bonus point triumph over Rotherham Titans at Clifton Lane on Saturday and now progress into the last-eight of the competition.
It was a vital result for the Ulstermen as it helped them finish a point ahead of fellow unbeaten side Nottingham in Pool 6, thus securing a home draw for the quarter-finals.
The Ravens had to come from behind in their final pool game. Rotherham, coached by former Ballymena and Belfast Harlequins boss Andre Bester, went ahead with a well-taken fourth minute try from winger John McMahon.
The hosts used a lineout to drive forward and the space was created for McMahon to touch down, with out-half Cliffie Hodgson smacking over the conversion.
Gary Longwell's side took their time to settle and although James McKinney landed a penalty to get them off the mark, they were soon behind their posts again after Rotherham's experienced flanker Ben Wade crashed over from close range.
It was the signal for the Ravens to up their efforts and they bossed play coming up to half-time. McKinney closed the gap to 12-6 with his second penalty and then impressive prop Callum Black used his power and pace to grab their first try which McKinney converted.
They took an 18-12 lead into the second half following a late try from full-back Peter Nelson, who profited from some crisp passing from his fellow backs to dot down in the corner.
The Ulster outfit clearly did not want to let their good work from previous wins over Doncaster, Currie and Pontypridd go to waste and they continued to look the better side in the early stages of the second half.
But the Titans made it a one-point game when winger Peter Homan raced onto a chip over the top and beat two defenders for a 25-metre run in.
Back came the Ulstermen, their elusive backs outfoxing the hosts again as Nelson got over in the corner for his second try. The young Dungannon clubman added a penalty shortly afterwards, having taking over the place-kicking duties from the departed McKinney.
Rotherham showed their resilience as with five minutes left, flanker Carl Kirwan notched a try which Hodgson converted to leave just two points between the sides.
It was time for the Ravens to show their quality again as a series of attacks wore down a tiring Rotherham defence and openside Willie Faloon was able to wrestle his way over in the corner for the bonus point score – their second of the competition.
It left most of the 581-strong crowd deflated but for Ulster, the injury-time try was a fitting reward for another determined display from Longwell's young charges who are quietly continuing on an upward curve.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)