Doncaster Knights served up a real Halloween horror show at times as they crashed to a 46-29 defeat against Cornish Pirates in Sunday’s televised Championship clash at Castle Park.
It was the club’s second successive Championship defeat, and their third in all competitions in their last four games, and only Bedford’s defeat kept them in the top four.
Although in the final analysis Knights only scored one try less than the impressive visitors, who made it two wins from two visits to South Yorkshire this season, the game was lost when they scored the bulk of them.
Boosted by a brace of wins in the B & I Cup, Pirates enjoyed the better of the early play – though centre Lloyd Hayes bombed what looked a good opening at the other end.
Pirates continued to dominate the first quarter territorially with their pack looking very solid and their back division sharp, and they deservedly took the lead on 14 minutes when fly-half William Cargill booted over a penalty.
Pirates increased their lead on the half-hour after Simon Humberstone had fired wide with a long-range penalty, full-back Toby May dummied his way over for a try goaled by Cargill following good work by back-rowers Thomas Lawday and Rupert Cooper in the build-up.
Pirates were in again on 33 minutes. Wing Kyle Moyle backed up a break by scrum-half Alex Day to touch down for his eighth try of the campaign. Cargill again converted to make it 17-0.
Knights finally gave the subdued home crowd something to cheer on 37 minutes when skipper Michael Hills sent hooker Ben Hunter over from a well-executed line-out drill for an unconverted try in the corner.
There was a let-off for Knights at the death when centre Daniel Koster put down Day’s try-scoring pass at the side of the posts under pressure from a defender a couple of metres out.
Knights made the early running after the break only to fall further behind on 48 minutes when wing Alex O’Meara intercepted Alex Shaw’s pass and raced 80m to score an unconverted try to make it 22-5.
Knights were reduced to 14 men on 55 minutes when full-back Declan Cusack was sin-binned for holding Koster down after he had got away down the left in the Doncaster half.
Pirates effectively killed the game off four minutes later, Lawday going over for a bonus point try from a scrum. Lawrence May added the extras to leave Knights trailing 29-5 at the start of the final quarter.
Realistically playing for nothing but pride and the outside hope of a losing bonus point at that stage, Knights reduced the deficit with a close-range try by Matt Challinor.
No sooner had the cheers died down than Pirates were in again.
Knights hit back when Hayes linked with Tyson Lewis to score from a move started in his own half. Humberstone converted.
Replacement scrum-half Tom James and debutant wing James Wright went in for a couple of late tries – the first one securing Knights a bonus point - but it was too little too late.
* Knights: Cusack, Junior Bulumakau, Andy Bulumakau, Hayes, Lewis, Humberstone,Heaney; List,Hunter, Quigley, Civetta, Hicks, Challinor, Hills, Shaw. Replacements; Bergmanas, Evans, Sproston, Hill, Jones, James, Wright.