There was to be no winning return to Castle Park for Paul Cooke as fourth-placed Doncaster Knights suffered a 46-29 Championship defeat against Cornish Pirates.
The former Doncaster RLFC head coach quit his role as backs and skills coach at Knights in 2016 to return to the 13-a-side code as No 2 at Championship favourites Leigh.
Cooke helped the Lancashire club return to Super League the same season but paid the price of the club’s relegation.
Knights boss Clive Griffiths, who had kept in regular touch with Cooke, and attended his wedding earlier this year, approached him about returning to Castle Park to fill the void left by Francis Cummins recent return to rugby league.
Cooke, whose return was announced on Sunday, had helped in the final preparations for the Pirates game.
“It’s hurting,” said Griffiths when reflecting on the game.
After reeling off a long list of unavailable players, Griffiths said: “We’ve again been without a lot of players good enough to have been in the 22 today but we had confidence in the boys entrusted with the shirts today.
“But everything we looked at this week in training – things that Cornish Pirates do – they did and we had no answer to it and that is the thing which hurts. I’ve got to look at myself first. Did I prepare the team right and pass on the right information to the coaches? I think I did, but whatever the reasons it’s a sad day for me because we don’t like getting beat like that at home.
“The only real positive is that we managed to salvage a losing bonus point near the end.
“We finished well and scored some nice tries but the game was lost in the first half and just after half time.”