Doncaster Knights 18, Cornish Pirates 18
A TOUGH first month of the Championship season ended in South Yorkshire for the Cornish Pirates on Friday night as they thanked fly-half Kieran Hallett's steely nerve for slotting the stoppage time penalty which earned them a draw.
The Pirates led twice in a poor game against a limited Doncaster side but were again guilty of making too many mistakes in possession allowing the Knights to stay in the game and think they had won it with Rhys Buckley's late converted try.
Pirates boss Ian Davies didn't mince his words after his side failed to win for the third game in a row and said: "It was a fair result in the end, to be honest. Neither side deserved to win.
"We are very disappointed and we have got to raise our standards because Doncaster weren't a very good team. They played with emotion and we kept them in it."
He added: "If we want to be a top half of the table or even top four side we have to raise our standards. We can't perform as we did here."
The Pirates had hoped to get back to winning ways against a Knights team who had lost all four opening games and Davies said: "We are disappointed because our aim was to be three (wins) from five after tonight.
"We set out to win every game and the Bristol match was a game we could have won, or at least taken a bonus point from, Newcastle was a fair result but here we have lost two points.
"But as I have said we are on a rollercoaster at the moment and I'm not one for heights so hopefully we can stop this soon and get a bit of calm ground."
On a perfect night for running rugby the game itself lacked shape and urgency, turning quickly into a kicking contest as both teams searched for space to attack.
Jamie Lennard and Hallett traded penalties before the Pirates lost skipper Gavin Cattle after he suffered a nasty blow to the head. The introduction of Tom Kessell at number nine livened up the Cornish side and with home flanker Dave Bradford sin-binned, they claimed the opening try through Joe Buckle just before the break.
Doncaster continued to enjoy the lions' share of possession after the break but were largely toothless in attack while Kessell's attempts to get the Pirates on the front foot earned praise from Davies.
He said: "Tom played well. He's a very good scrum-half with a bright future ahead of him. The game-time he is getting can only benefit him and with Ben Mercer joining us this week, Tom will hopefully not have to play on the wing."
Yet despite the probing and sniping of Kessell the Pirates fell behind to a Chris Planchant try on 63 minutes, even though the big No8 appeared to have a foot in touch as he grounded the ball.
Kessell's tenacity then paid off as he linked with Bedford and Burgess attacking again down the right. Patience and good phase play stretched the home defence and Alex Cheesman worked a good overlap to score his first try in the Championship with four minutes to go.
Hallett converted, but back came Doncaster and they looked to have won the game through Buckley's touchdown at the end of regular time until Hallett's fine penalty gate crashed the Castle Park party moments later.
The Pirates head coach concluded: "We scrummaged powerfully, the line-out went well and we made some good line breaks.
"We aren't a million miles away but we have to be consistent in what we do so that if the opposition are poor we win."