The Knights were outscored by five tries to two in a 34-17 defeat to Cornish Pirates which means that the side’s play-off fate will go down to the final weekend of the season.
Donny were unable to back up last Sunday’s fine derby win over Yorkshire as they came up short against an impressive Pirates outfit who held the upper hand in most quarters for the duration.
A lively start saw both sides look to force early opportunities, the Knights enjoyed more of the possession but were rarely granted opportunity to leave their own half. Fleeting opportunities were created by the Knights but a lack of composure with front foot ball scuppered further progress.
Few real scoring opportunities were created in the opening quarter of an hour but most of the play seemed to be taking place in the Knights half and indiscipline gave the Pirates opportunity to enjoy some decent territory from which they took full advantage.
A penalty for dropping the maul at a line out almost saw Tom Hendrickson drop over on a Laurence May grubber kick but the centre was held up in goal with advantage. The Pirates went back to the corner and after the maul was illegally dropped for a second time referee Matt O’Grady sin binned Glen Young and ran under the sticks for a penalty try. May added the extras.
With a man advantage the hosts quickly increased their lead and it was from another deep driving line out preceded by midfield indiscipline. This time the Knights pack managed to legally drop the drive but after a handful of quick carries play was spun blind where Max Bodilly finished smartly.
The Knights needed a reaction and did produce a response of sorts following a fine kick to touch from Simon Humberstone; one of many in the opening forty. From the resulting lineout the Pirates gave up a penalty and Dougie Flockhart took the opportunity to put Donny on the score sheet.
Unfortunately, the Knights could not kick on from the penalty and instead gave away a rather sloppy third try. Defensive confusion saw the Knights shoot up in midfield which allowed Kyle Moyle to nip through a gap Paul Jarvis raced across to try and cover but the winger would not be stopped. A smart conversion from May made is 19-3 and the signs were ominous.
The Knights have fought back from compromising positions at the Mennaye before but a 16-point deficit at the half would have required a complete change in fortunes; or divine intervention. Thankfully a late rally before the interval provided a lifeline for Donny.
A deep line out the Knights lead to a succession of penalties resulting in number eight Tom Duncan being sent to the sin-bin. With no time left on the clock Michael Heaney fed Matt Challinor with a quick tap and the pack set about rumbling towards the Pirates line with Ben Hunter eventually crashing over. Flockhart’s conversion made the half time score 19-10.
With a man advantage and the deficit down to ten points the considerable travelling Donny support had good reason to believe that the game was far from lose. However, just five minutes after the resumption Kyle Moyle scooped his second score of the afternoon as the winger collected a well-weighted grubber to secure a bonus points for the Pirates to extinguish the half time hope.
Soon after the Knights coaching staff looked to utilise the bench but it failed to stem the Pirates ascendancy as they continued to put the Knights under pressure in the loose and at scrum time. A succession of scrum penalties ended with May extending his sides lead with a well hit three pointer,
The Knights did show some defiance as they formulated a beautifully structured driving lineout to put Aaron Carpenter over the line against his old side but this was about as good as it got.
Despite needing two scores Donny looked the least likely to improve on their total as the game creeped into the final quarter. The odd opportunity presented itself but the Pirates looked the more threatening of the two sides.
With time all but done the host capped a dominant performance with a fifth try after the Knights coughed up possession outside of their own 22m. The ball was then quickly put through several pairs of hands with some ambitious offloads with the ball eventually finding its way to May who dived over.
A bad day at the office for the Knights who now have a weekend off before what could be a season defining clash against Jersey at Castle Park on April 8th.
Cornish Pirates: 15 Toby May, Kyle Moyle (Jack Arnott 62’), 13 Tom Hendrickson, 12 Nicolas De Battista 11 Max Bodilly, 10 Laurence May, 9 Alex Day 1 Marlen Walker, 2 Jack Innard, 3 Paul Andrew, 4 Chris Morgan (capt) 5 Brett Beukeboom, 6 Jake Parker (John Stevens 64’), 7 Dan lee, 8 Tom Duncan
Replacements: 16 Jack Andrew, 17 Luke Chapman, 18 Josh Caulfield, 19 John Stevens 20 Mike Pope, 21 Will Cargill, 22 Jack Arnott
Tries; Penalty 17’, Bodilly 29’, Moyle 35’, 45’, May 80’
Conv; May 17’, 36’, 45’
Pens; May 56’
Knights; 15. Paul Jarvis, 14. Dougie Flockhart, 13. Andy Bulumakau, 12. Lloyd Hayes, 11. Tyson Lewis, 10. Simon Humberstone (Dec Cusack 52’), 9. Michael Heaney (Sam Edgerley 63’), 1. Rich List (Jack Bergmanas 52’), 2. Ben Hunter (Dave Nelson 56’), 3. Colin Quigley (Joe Sproston 52’), 4. Matt Challinor (Joe Makymiw 45’), 5. Glen Young, 6. Jack Ram (Alex Shaw 56’), 7. Michael Hills ©, 8. Aaron Carpenter
Replacements; 16. Jack Bergmanas, 17. Dave Nelson 18. Joe Sproston, 19. Joe Maksymiw, 20. Alex Shaw, 21. Sam Edgerley, 22. Dec Cusack.
Tries; Hunter 40’, Carpenter 64’
Conv; Flockhart 40’, 64’
Pens; Flockhart 33’
Referee: Matthew O'Grady