Cornish Pirates 31 Doncaster Knights 24: Knights suffer defeat in Championship opener

Tom James scored two tries for Knights
Tom James scored two tries for Knights

Cornish Pirates scuppered Doncaster Knights’ hopes of kicking off their 2018-19 Championship campaign on a winning note at Mennaye Field.

Although the South Yorkshire side led on several occasions and were in contention throughout, they had to settle for a losing bonus point as Pirates won 31-24 to claim the spoils.

Knights started the game with four of their new signings including former Newcastle second-rower Nick Civetta, who played on dual-registration for them last season.

Unbeaten in the league since February, Pirates made the early running and but for a missed penalty from just outside the Doncaster 22 by fly-half Will Cargill they would have opened the scoring on four minutes.

Knights continued to be penned in their own half until taking the lead against the run of play on seven minutes.

Dual-registered full-back Cameron Cowell instigated the move from inside his own half with prop Robin Hislop and wing Steve McColl, who supplied the try-scoring pass to fly-half Tom James, also playing their part.

James’ half-back partner Charlie Foley added the extras.

Pirates, who completed the double over Knights last season, drew level within two minutes with a close range try by Sam Matavesi.

Cargill tagged on the conversion but failed to put his side ahead for a second time when missing a long-range penalty several minutes later.

Despite being without several injured regulars, Knights regained the lead on 23 minutes when Cowell’s pace saw him win the race to a chip kick by McColl. Foley again tagged on the extras to make it 14-7.

Pirates capitalised on a period of pressure when Matavesi barged over from close range. Cargill’s conversion levelled the scores at 14-all.

Knights produced an immediate response with the speedy James bagging his second try after supporting a break by half-back partner Foley, who again tagged on the conversion.

Pirates, who finished fourth last season and are expected to do well again this season, drew level again with a third converted try just before the break to make it 21-21.

Points proved much harder to come by for both sides in the second half, though there were chances at both ends in the third quarter.

Foley had the chance to edge his side in front again within five minutes of the restart but his penalty attempt came back off the post.

Club captain Matt Challinor looked to have scored a bonus point try but Lloyd Hayes’ pass was judged forward.

Fortunately for Knights play was brought back for a penalty and Foley hit the target to give his side a three-point lead going into the final quarter.

The lead changed hands for a final time on 66 minutes as Pirates No 8 Tom Duncan touched down.

Cargill added the extra two points in addition to kicking a late penalty to leave Knights needing a converted try to salvage a result.

Never-say-die Knights gave it their best shot in a tense finish but Pirates held out.

Knights: Cowell, McColl, Hayes, Matavesi, Lewis, Foley, James; Hislop, Hunter, Quigley, Challoner, Civetta, Eames, Hill, Ryan. Rep: Langdon, Williams, Sprotson, Calladine, Morath, Dawson, Clark.