Rosslyn Park got the bonus point win they needed with a four-try 32-10 win over third-placed Coventry.
However, a 57-17 win over Wharfedale keeps Doncaster Knights four points ahead of Park at the top of the National League One table, with two games to go.
Changes from the side that defeated Doncaster the previous week were forced by injuries to two first-choice locks, Richard Boyle and James Inglis, which saw flanker Tom Baldwin – himself coming back from a long period of injury – drafted into the second row. Similarly, the absence of prop Alex McKenzie gave a start to England U20 player Alex Lundberg, whose performance underlined what a talent the teenager is.
Within seconds Park were awarded a penalty around the 10 metre line, when fouled receiving the kick off. Not assisted by a slanting wind, fly half Scott Sneddon put the ball inches wide of the far post.
Coventry replied with a massive attack that showed they had not come to make up the numbers.
Mover: Park’s Dave Vincent on the attack
They were under pressure at their own scrum, but Park transgressed as they brought the ball out.
Coventry kicked the penalty to the corner for the first test of Park’s new-look line out.
Park did not challenge for the throw, concentrating on stopping the drive which they did at cost of a penalty.
This was again lofted towards the corner but this time Park won the ball and knocked-on - Park were penalised at the resulting scrum close to their line and Coventry opted to re-set.
This time Park put the visiting scrum under enormous pressure and won a free kick to enable them to clear.
No sooner did Park break free than Scott Sneddon chipped the ball over the defence.
It bounced kindly for Park as a defender running backwards could only knock it towards his own posts and Sneddon picked it up and scampered over for 5-0 to the hosts.
Park were now looking very sharp indeed, and went further ahead with a super individual try by flanker Harry Broadbent.
Again Park exerted immense pressure on the visitors’ scrum and as the ball emerged untidily Broadbent swooped and sprinted off to score between the posts. Sneddon’s conversion made it 12-0 on 15 minutes.
Battle royale: Possession is nine-tenths of the law for Rosslyn Park
Coventry were by no means bystanders, but such was the quality and commitment of Park’s tackling that the visitors had great difficulty in stringing together passing movements that did not end up further back than they started.
A sweeping Park move up the left almost reached the line before being penalised.
Full-back Nev Edwards made a super burst out of defence and, when faced by a defender, deftly flicked the ball with the outside of his right foot for winger Charles Broughton to run onto, but the ball tantalisingly went into touch before he could reach it.
Coventry added to the pressure they were under by a long clearance going out on the full to give Park a throw on the 22.
Park set up a move through several pairs of hands that worked the ball from wide on the left to in front of the posts, where centre Paul Mackey ran onto it at speed to go over.
Sneddon’s conversion made it 19-0 on 33 minutes.
Coventry put in a good attack only to knock-on when they reached the 22, but they then caught Park offside, which allowed the League’s leading scorer, Cliffie Hodgson, to put his side on the scoreboard at 19-3 with the last kick of the first half.
The second half was barely five minutes old when Park got the try they needed for the bonus point, to keep up the pressure on the League leaders.
The scorer was flanker Sam Shires, but it was created by a piece of brilliant opportunism by scrum half Jack Gash, who seized a loose ball before anyone else reacted and set off for the line. When his options were closed down he committed the defence before offloading to his flanker.
Sneddon added a peach of a conversion for 26-3.
Over: Scott Sneddon scores Park's first try against Coventry
Park were now breaking the Coventry line with a degree of regularity.
Sneddon kicked through and gained a penalty when restrained from following through, which he successfully kicked for 29-3 on 52 minutes.
Mackey made a telling run out of defence which very nearly put Broadbent away to score. Things got worse for Cov when replacement lock Tom Poole relieved the pressure by kicking the ball away from an offside position to earn himself 10 minutes in the sin bin. Sneddon kicked the penalty for 32-3.
Cov went close when catching Park offside on their own 10 metre line. The penalty was hoofed to touch but the home defence proved equal to the threat.
Another Park attack yielded another penalty, and very nearly a try of genius. Sneddon looked to all the world as if he was going to punt the ball out for a throw at the left corner.
As the defence settled accordingly, he pivoted at the last moment and sent the ball over to the other wing where Broughton was in acres of space.
Broughton was clearly also unaware of the fly half’s intentions as an eagle-eyed referee spotted that he had been inches offside when the ball was kicked.
Coventry never gave up and were rewarded with a try by replacement Barry Davies with twelve minutes remaining.
Cheerio: Jack Gash rounds the Coventry defeat
After all the superb tackling Park had put in it seemed strange to see someone making the line unmolested, but it was a clever move on the left and – with Hodgson’s conversion – no more than Coventry deserved.
Indeed Coventry staged something of a mini-revival, though too little, too late.
It was Park who nearly capped things when a long pass found Broughton, who ran in for what would have been a cracking try, but the referee (correctly) ruled that the final pass had been marginally forward.
Park: Edwards; Broughton, Staff, Mackey (Gower), Vincent; Sneddon; Gash (Grant); Lundberg, Bellamy (Woolstencroft), Liffchak (Ward); Bowley, Baldwin; Shires, Broadbent (Starling), Ellis.
Flying off: Lee Starling leads a Park attack