DONCASTER Knights director of rugby Clive Griffiths hailed his side’s “never-say-die” attitude after an astonishing comeback saw them grab a dramatic victory to reach the British and Irish Cup quarter-finals.
They trailed 30-10 with only 10 minutes remaining and the destination of the Pool Four title seemed set to remain undecided until the final round of group matches next weekend.
But the Knights came storming back with three tries in an amazing finale, and with winger Dougie Flockhart converting all of them, his third being the last kick of the game, the Yorkshiremen made it five wins out of five.
Griffiths said the team had taken inspiration from a recent visit by Lee Audis, their former centre, who suffered life-threatening injuries in a car crash three years ago.
“One of our trademarks is we never give up, and Lee – who spent six months in a coma – re-emphasised that the other day when we brought him in to give us a talk before the Bristol game,” explained Griffiths.
“We looked dead and buried, but we just needed a bit of a foothold.
“We were starved of possession because the penalty count was horrendous against us, but we did it right.
“We took advantage of the sin-binning, though we probably would have scored if he had not knocked the ball down anyway, but the final try was fantastic, and so was the way we fought back.”
Griffiths had special praise for “immaculate” winger Flockhart, who scored one try, created two more, and had a 100 per cent record with the boot.
The Pirates led 30-10 after 58 minutes, with their driving maul providing tries for hooker Rob Elloway (2) and lock Will Carrick Smith, and winger Craig Holland grabbed another, with teenage fly-half Laurence May adding two conversions and two penalties.
But May’s inexplicable 77th-minute penalty miss from in front of the posts opened the door for Doncaster to snatch victory.
George Catchpole’s try and five points from Flockhart’s boot was all Doncaster had to show for the first half, but once Holland had been sin-binned in the 66th minute for a deliberate knock-on, the game completely changed.
Doncaster scored two tries while he was off, with Flockhart collecting the first and then intercepting on his own try line to send in full-back Paul Jarvis, with both converted, to get the score back to 30-24.
Then, with the final play of the game, replacement lock Matt Challinor forced his way over, with Flockhart keeping his cool to add the extras.
Cornish Pirates: Bodilly, Jones (Cattle 1), Dancer (Hendrickson 62), James, Holland, May, Kessell (Snook 75), J Andrew (Ford-Robinson 62), Elloway (Brooker 71), Deformes (Paver ht), Carrick Smith, Barry, Conlon, Atkinson (Morgan 58), Bolwell.
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis, Flockhart, Catchpole, Armitage, Williams, Francis, Bravo (Palu 50), List (Bergmanas 67), Hunter (Veikoso ht), John (Quigley 50), Hotson (Challinor 50), Phelan, Eggleshaw (Veikoso 28-31), Foden (Makaafi 70), Shaw. Unused replacement: Roberts.
Referee: C Maxwell-Keys (RFU).