Doncaster Knights lost their unbeaten record, and top spot in their group, after finishing empty-handed against improving Yorkshire Carnegie at Hull Ionians’ Brantingham Park ground.
Carnegie, who picked up a 33-20 win, led throughout against a Doncaster side whose overall performance fell well below the standard set in their previous three league and cup games.
The 12 noon start didn’t seem to suit Knights in the first-half and they trailed a Carnegie side which had taken advantage of their scoring chances, 26-3 at the break.
Knights, for whom centre Mat Clark was making his 100th appearance for the club, improved after the break and bagged three of the four second half tries although all were scored in the final quarter when they had a numerical advantage with Carnegie briefly having two men in the sin-bin at one stage.
Carnegie were the first to settle and recent loan signing from Wasps, Jacob Umaga, whose boot effectively won the game, capitalised on early territorial pressure to kick his side into a 6-0 lead.
It took Knights until midway through the opening quarter to breach the Carnegie 22 where a spell of pressure led to record points scorer Dougie Flockhart opening their account with a penalty - quickly cancelled out by a third Umaga penalty.
Carnegie scored the first try of the game just before the half-hour mark when flanker Dan Temm broke clear and raced away to score in the corner.
Umaga added the extras and also hit the target with a fourth penalty to open up a 19-3 lead.
Knights fell further behind before the break when wing Harry Davey intercepted a pass by full-back Paul Jarvis and raced 40m to score a second converted try to give his side a flattering lead.
Knowing that that they needed to score first in the second half to entertain any hope of salvaging a result, Knights were the first to threaten via stand-in fly-half Cameron Cowell.
Knights’ task became that much tougher when wing Chris Elder burst over at the side of the posts for a 60th minute try converted by fly-half Jade Te Rure - another of Carnegie’s recent additions – after the ball had been moved along the line from a maul.
Carnegie were reduced to 14 men for ten minutes when Temm was sin-binned
Knights wasted little time in cashing in on their numerical advantage with replacement hooker Ben Hunter touching down out wide on 69 minutes for a try converted by Flockhart.
Wing Curtis Wilson, who also went close shortly after following good work by Michael Hills, made full use of the extra space to claim a 77th minute try.
Hunter bagged a second close-range effort at the death for Knights who scored the same number of tries as Carnegie.
But it was too little, too late for Knights who will have to play better over the 80 minutes to gain revenge when the two sides meet in the return at Castle Park on Saturday.
Knights: Jarvis, Wilson, Hayes, Clark, Flockhart, Cowell, James; Williams, Malcolm, Talaese, Challinor, Eames, Ryan. Booth, Pitman. Rep: Hunter, Sprotson, Hills, Jones, Creed, Pocklington, Adams.