Doncaster Knights hit the ground running at Goldington Road on their return to Championship rugby.
Knights ended 2016 with back-to-back wins and their 40-22 victory over Bedford Blue saw them cement third place in the table.
What was expected to be a tough encounter for Knights, who had to dig deep to claim a 30-20 win at Castle Park earlier in the season, turned out to be anything but in the first half.
The visitors had to rely on the trusty boot of Dougie Flockhart for all their points in an 18-13 win in the corresponding fixture last season, but it was a different story on Saturday as they scored five tries when romping to a 31-12 interval lead.
Bedford, bidding to repeat last season’s top-four finisht, came more into the game in the second half and at one stage briefly looked to have an outside chance of victory. But Knights finished as they started on top.
It took Knights less than two minutes to open their account – excellent work by centre Mat Clark sending in the Championship’s leading try-scorer Tyson Lewis over for his 11th league touchdown of the season.
Flockhart added the touchline conversion.
But for a kinder bounce from his own kick, full-back Paul Jarvis would likely have added a second try soon after.
But the Doncaster fans didn’t have to wait long for another score – skipper Michael Hills claiming his first try of an injury-hit campaign to make it 12-0 after just five minutes.
Knights were in no mood to relinquish the momentum and mid-season signing Jack Ram forced his way over from a ruck to claim his first try for the club. Flockhart again added the extras to make it 19-0 after less than ten minutes.
Bedford worked hard to stem the flow but fell further behind on 36 minutes when prop Richard List burst over from close range, after Matt Challinor had been stopped just short, to secure his side a bonus point.
Blues finished the half strongly with speedy scrum-half Tom James scoring a try and setting one up for wing Dean Adamson with a neat grubber-kick either side of a Michael Heaney try – the half-back showing good pace after latching on to Flockhart’s pin-point grubber-kick.
Blues dominated the third quarter but were denied a third try by some determined defending until wing Pat Tapley crossed in the 57th minute.
When Adamson grabbed his second try to close the gap to just nine points it was game-on.
But that was as good as it got for the home side, who had Christian Judge sin-binned on 67 minutes, and three late Flockhart penalties sealed their fate.
n Doncaster Knights: Jarvis, Flockhart, Hayes, Clark, Lewis, Humberstone, Heaney; List, Hunter, John, Challinor, Young, Ram, Hills, Williams. Rep: Bergmanas, Allen, Quigley, Nolan, Cusack, Edgerley, Scanlon.