DONCASTER Knights staged a late fight back in Cornwall to plunder a brace of tries in second half injury-time in their opening Championship Promotion play-off Pool B clash against the Cornish Pirates.
But they fell just short of a losing bonus point when fly-half Tristan Roberts failed to convert Latu Makaafi`s score with the final kick of the game.
It was tough on the Knights, who had taken an early lead through a long distance Roberts penalty and then conceded 16 points as the Pirates struggled to impose their game on Lynn Howells`s side.
Knights conceded three penalties through the boots of Rob Cook and Grant Pointer before suffering a sucker punch on the half hour as they spilled possession in attack and saw home flanker Phil Burgess race 55 metres before eluding the despairing tackle of full-back Steve McColl to score. Cook converted.
McColl had the chance of further points right on the interval with a penalty from halfway but despite the ball appearing to drop over the crossbar, the touch judges refused to award the score.
The home side began the second half brightly launching a series of attacks through Paver, Bentley and McGlone. But they failed to trouble the scoreboard making errors in the face of a resolute Knights’ defence.
Doncaster continued to frustrate the Pirates at the breakdown and despite a worrying tendency to kick away hard earned possession with impunity, got back in the game on 50 minutes as Roberts struck with a penalty from half-way.
Ten Minutes later Pirates coughed up an interception deep in the Knights 22 and wing Dougie Flockhart raced clear to score at the Penzance end of the ground. Roberts converted to bring the arrears back to just three points.
Pirates edged further ahead nine minutes from time with a disputed try from Pointer - Knights claimed the wing had dropped the ball in the process of scoring.
They went on to secure a bonus point with a quick-fire double from Cook and former Knights’ wing Wes Davies.
Trailing 33-13 with the game moving into stoppage time, Knights finally began to keep the ball in hand and work the phases as they put the Pirates under sustained pressure.
Centre Olly Goss squeezed over after the Pirates had been stretched out wide. Roberts converted.
Then, with the Pirates failing to kick the ball dead in the final play of the game, Nathan Jones stole possession and set up the platform which eventually saw Makaafi burrow over from close range. Roberts had the chance to nick a losing bonus point with the final kick of the game only to slice a routine effort wide of the target.
Cornish Pirates: Cook, Pointer, Hopper, Luke (Locke 66), Davies, Bentley, Cattle (capt) (Doherty 75), Storer (Brits 51), Ward (Elloway 75), Paver (Andrew 78), McGlone (Myerscough 62), Gulliver, Morgan, Burgess (Betty 72), Marriott
Doncaster Knights: McColl, Flockhart, Goss, Wright, Williams, Roberts, Jones, Thiede (Brown 48), Boden (Lawrie 72), Cusack, Challinor, Kenworthy (Parsons 72), Makaafi, Cochrane, Jackson. Replacements (not used) Doughty, Davey, Gates, Briers
Referee – S.Lee (RFU)
As Rotherham prepare for this Saturday’s South Yorkshire play-offs derby against Doncaster they must avoid the mistakes which resulted in Saturday’s 58-15 home thrashing against Bedford by eight tries to two at Clifton Lane.
Bedford are a decent side and may well reach the Championship final, but even they were surprised by the margin of their win.
The manner in which Rotherham let in six tries during a second half collapse was alarming, and any repeat will confirm some fears that the Titans are not good enough to win a game in the promotion play-offs and Doncaster will be fully aware of the weaknesses, especially in defence, that enabled Bedford to score so freely and so quickly.