Doncaster Knights 36, Cornish Pirates 21
THE Cornish Pirates slipped to fifth place in the Championship with an error strewn performance at Castle Park which saw them lose for the second game in succession and the Knights gain their first home win over the Pirates for nine years.
A blistering spell at the end of the first quarter from Brett Davey's Knights saw the home side run in 17 unanswered points in four minutes and left the Pirates on the ropes as they trailed 20-0.
And although they rallied, out-scoring the Yorkshire side after that and matched them three-all on the try count the damage had been done, as a frustrated Chris Stirling admitted.
The Pirates high performance manager said: "We were blown off the park in the first half by errors and poor discipline and the opposition played really well. We didn't play well.
"The odd error was created by the opposition cramping our space but most of it was down to poor game management. We were the architect of our own down fall in certain areas."
He added: "There wasn't really a lot between the two teams all game but Doncaster took the opportunities when they go them. Our defence was good in periods but there were also times when it wasn't up to scratch and we missed first up tackles, lost field position through discipline and their goal-kicker hurt us. It was three tries apiece in the end but their goal-kicking got them home."
The explosion of points was out of character with what had gone before as the Pirates looked quite comfortable. They dominated the set piece but when Doncaster applied pressure the backs creaked and made mistakes handing chances to the home side. They needed no second invitation to take them.
Two penalties and two conversions from impressive full-back David McIlwaine, along with tries from Dougie Flockhart and Tom Davies did the damage early on and even though Phil Burgess ran in a fine solo try for the Pirates, Doncaster were in no mood to relax.
McIlwaine slotted a third penalty and then converted Mike Keating's try to make it 30-7 before the Pirates' pack destroyed their opponents with a series of scrums close to the Knights' line to earn a penalty try.
Centre Drew Locke conjured up a try out of nothing to cut the home lead to nine points early in the second half, but with the game finely poised and the home fans becoming edgy, the dependable boot of McIlwaine made the game safe with two further penalties.
Stirling summed up the performance by the Pirates when he said: "Up front we were really good and it was surprising that we were down 30 points to seven but out the back we will have to have another look at it. Some of our game management and decision making was pretty off the mark."
And he revealed that some firm words were said at the end of the game. "We had a chat in the circle at the end and said that we have got to turn things around now.
"The time has come. We cannot have any more performances like that because it is all about building a getting better but we didn't – we took a step back."
"I always felt that there might be a bit of an effect coming off the back of the defeat at Bristol and I think we saw aspects of that here. But we have got to be bigger than that."