DONCASTER Knights gave their hopes of avoiding relegation from the Championship a massive boost with a backs-to-the-wall victory at the Mennaye Field.
The Knights played 56 minutes of the game with only 14 men after centre Bevon Armitage was sent off after two yellow cards in the space of 14 minutes for what were deemed deliberate knock-ons by referee Dean Richards.
But they made light of their numerical disadvantage and ended the game slightly disappointed they did not score a bonus-point fourth try.
News of bottom side Plymouth Albion drawing 12-12 at home to London Scottish slightly marred the Knights’ day, but they are now nine points clear of trouble, with seven matches remaining.
Delighted director of rugby Clive Griffiths said: “I asked the boys to show some passion, and they did that. You could see how much it means to them, and I am delighted with the performance.
“Plymouth have got to win three games now, but it is still in the melting pot.”
It was a sticky opening quarter for Doncaster, with two penalty misses by Dougie Flockhart and Armitage’s first yellow card.
Kieran Hallett kicked Pirates into a 3-0 lead, but good handling saw scrum-half Thomas Palu cross, Flockhart converting.
Hallett kicked a second penalty after Armitage’s dismissal which Griffiths felt was “very harsh”, to make it 7-6 to the visitors, before a Flockhart penalty gave Doncaster a four-point interval advantage. A converted try by Hallett gave Pirates a great start to the second half, but they did not score again as Doncaster took control.
Two more Flockhart penalties made it 16-13 to the visitors, while Pirates lost Joel Conlon and Alex Dancer to the sin-bin, momentarily reducing them to 13 men. Then two tries in four minutes either side of the hour, from Ben Hunter at a catch-and-drive lineout, and Flockhart, who converted both for a 20-point haul, saw Doncaster home.
Cornish Pirates: Bodilly, Evans, Hendrickson, Dancer (James 73), Holland, Hallett (Hopkin 73), Kessell (Pope 71), Davies (Walker 63), Channon (Innard 63), Paver, Graulich, Barry (Carrick Smith 71), Morgan (capt), Atkinson (Conlon 46), Cheesman.
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis, Flockhart, Clark, Armitage, Lewis, Fosita, Palu, List (Davies 50), Hunter (Veikoso 71), Quigley (John 71), Hotson (Makaafi 71), Phelan, Challinor, Hills (capt), Shaw (Stedman 74). Unused replacements: Francis, Field.
Referee: D Richards (RFU).