Doncaster Knights suffered a first home defeat of the season to Cornish Pirates as they were beaten 35-26 in front of a busy Castle Park crowd and the Sky Sports cameras.
The Knights will rue missed opportunities and slack discipline that effectively cost them the game as they fell short to a committed and creative Pirates outfit.
After an impressive opening, the Knights were limited to brief spells of possession and all to often fell foul of the referees whistle allowing visiting fly half Laurence May to kick an 18 points haul.
Doncaster started the game on the front foot and got their first try after just six minutes.
Lloyd Hayes found a gap in the Pirates defence and charged up field. The midfielder was brought down just short of the 22m and in the next phase possession was whipped wide impressively by fly-half Declan Cusack setting up a two on one for Andy Bulumakau and Tyson Lewis; the latter finishing in the corner, 5-0.
The Pirates found a way back into the game moments later. Firstly, a simple penalty for May to dispatch in front of the sticks then a try shortly after. Lackluster defence close to the home try-line led to full-back Toby May going over in the corner unchallenged, 8-5.
More Cornish pressure followed the try and with Donny penned deep inside their own half the Pirates worked the ball quickly through phases testing the Knights defence and resolve with each play. The pressure eventually brought another indiscretion and May got another chance at the posts which was taken with ease, 11-5.
Doncaster were quick to respond following May’s penalty, a deep penalty kick from Cusack put the Knights in a dangerous area and gave the forwards their first real opportunity to drive.
The Knights pack pushed forward, working closer and closer to the try-line through some patient, well-set, mauling. Within a yard of the try line Richard List carried from short range & looked as if he’d got the Knights second but after a lengthy TMO time out a knock was spotted and a Pirates scrum awarded.
It was the Pirates who finished the half on the front foot, the visitors charged up field with precious little left in the half. The home defence seemed stretched with every play and there was an air of inevitability when back-row Thomas Duncan smashed through a couple of would be tacklers to score. Half time 18-5.
The Knights started the second half much like the first, taking the game to the Pirates and putting them under pressure. Unfortunately, much like the first half, that pressure didn’t last long.
The first opportunity of the half fell to the Knights after Jarad Williams broke from the back of a turnover scrum. The number eight offloaded to Will Owen who in turn gave the ball back inside to Heaney, the scrum half thought about making a dash for the line before changing his mind and attempting to offload, unfortunately the pass attempt went to ground.
Play was brought back for penalty advantage, opting for touch Donny looked to utilize the driving maul which rumbled before being stopped short of the try line. Posession was clever switch blind to Lloyd Hayes who drew his man and passed off to Jarvis who walked it in. Cusack struck an impressive touchline conversion, 18-12, game on.
Pirates hit back almost instantly and it was poor discipline from Doncaster that cost them again. A series of three quick penalties in seven were dispatched by May to move the visitors fifteen points clear and ultimately won the game, it also left the Knights with 14 men after Harrison Orr was binned for foul play on the goal line.
It was to be a difficult final fifteen minutes for the home side who desperately needed an injection of pace to the game. Orr’s yellow card was followed by an injury to Will Owen, with no back-row replacements on the bench the Knights were forced to move Robin Hislop to flank and bring on veteran prop Colin Quigley.
The Knights also switched it up in the half backs and introduced Dougie Flockhart on the wing who made an instant impact to the game as he collected a restart to put Donny on the front front.
The Knights continued to move downfield following the Flockhart take and scrum half Ben White went close first for the home side with a darting run at the base of the ruck. In the next phase Robin Hislop tried his luck from short range and powered his way over the line. The conversion from Flockhart brought the Knights within eight with over ten minutes remaining.
When the Knights played to their strengths they looked full of energy, dangerous and capable of scoring from anywhere. Unfortunately for the bumper crown it was an all to rare occurrence and good play with regularly handicapped by slack indiscipline.
It took Cornish two minutes to crush any hopes of a Donny comeback Chris Morgan touched down with alarming ease. After collecting the ball in the front pod of a line-out second-row the lock made a break from the 22m and was given a clear run to the try line, 32-19.
There was one last glimmer of hope for the Knights as Jarvis grabbed his second try of the game with minutes left on clock. The ball was moved quickly out to Jarvis on the wing from a penalty, stepping inside and beating two men Doncaster’s man of the match was able ground the ball and after a lengthy TMO review the try was awarded, 32-26.
Hope’s that a final play of the game winner might materialize quickly vanished as the Knights knocked on almost immediately from the restart before a scrum penalty against the hosts allowed May another three points which moved the home side out of losing bonus point range.
The Knights will now need to regroup as they face a tough away test in the next round of the Championship, with just ten points separating 3rd place from 11th it is vital that the Knights get back to winning ways sharpish.
Knights XV: 15. Sean Scanlon (Dougie Flockhart 65’), 14. Paul Jarvis, 13. Andy Bulumakau, 12. Lloyd Hayes, 11. Tyson Lewis, 10. Declan Cusack (Simon Humberstone 62’), 9. Michael Heaney (Ben White 62’), 1. Richard List (Robin Hislop 56’), 2. Harry Allen (Ben Hunter 31’), 3. WillGriff John, 4. Matthew Challinor, 5. David Nolan (Harrison Orr 56’), 6. Glen Young, 7. Will Owen (Colin Quigley 65’), 8. Jarad Williams
Replacements: 16. Robin Hislop, 17. Benjamin Hunter, 18, Colin Quigley, 19. Harrison Orr, 20. Douglas Flockhart, 21. Simon Humberstone, 22. Ben White
Tries: Tyson Lewis 6’, Paul Jarvis 49’ 78’, Robin Hislop 69’
Conversions: Declan Cusack 50’, Dougie Flockhart 69’ 78’
Pirates XV: 15. Toby May, 14. Kyle Moyle, 13. Thomas Gilbert-Hendrickson, 12. Alexander Dancer, 11. Jack Arnott, 10. Laurence May, 9. Stuart Townsend, 1. Marlen Walker, 2. Robert Elloway, 3. Jack Andrew, 4. Christopher Morgan, 5. Jacob Parker, 6. Daniel Lee, 7. Samuel Simmonds, 8. Thomas Duncan
Replacements: 16. Thomas Channon, 17. Tyler Gendall, 18. Edward Pascoe, 19. Alexander Cheesman, 20. Alexander Day, 21. William Cargill, 22. Nicolas De Battista
Tries: Toby May 15’, Thomas Duncan 37’, Chris Morgan 72’
Conversions: Laurence May 37’
Penalties: Laurence May 8’ 24’ 58’ 61’ 65’
Referee: Jack Makepeace
Written by Connor Hickinbottom