POOR kicking and handling ensured Doncaster Knights started the New Year empty handed as they were beaten by league leaders Newcastle Falcons.
Clive Griffiths’ side were certainly in the game as they turned around just 15-10 down at Castle Park against a side who have 100 per cent record so far this term.
But the Knights did themselves no favours with poor offensive decision making and the game quickly slipped out of their reach.
Doncaster were excellent defensively throughout the clash, helping to keep at bay a massive Newcastle side packed with Premiership-level talent.
Nevertheless, there was a sense of disappointment that a minimum of losing bonus point evaded them.
Handling errors hit the Knights from the kick off as they turned over possession too cheaply inside the Newcastle 22.
This put them on the back foot but they remained resolute with excellent cover as the visitors looked to recycle the ball quickly.
Joel Hodgson put the Falcons ahead on 12 minutes with a penalty but Doncaster hit back immediately through Jamie Lennard.
Newcastle used their physical advantage to dominate territory and possession but it was excellent vision that secured them the opening try.
Rory Lawson collected the ball at the back of the scrum and peeled away down the blindside to score unopposed in the corner.
The Knights’ cause was not helped when Rhys Buckley was yellow carded for an apparent off the ball incident.
Hodgson added another penalty and matters got worse for Doncaster when James Tincknell saw yellow after tackling a man not in possession.
Newcastle prop Jonny Golding was lucky to escape a similar fate after appearing to lash out in the subsequent melee.
Rather than collapse against the weight of the numbers disadvantage, the Knights rallied and finished the first half firmly on top.
And on the stroke of half time they narrowed the gap with a superb try.
Connor Baird sent over a cross-field kick and Lennard reacted quickest as Dougie Flockhart fumbled, collecting the ball to dive over before adding the extras.
Doncaster failed to carry the momentum into the second half and were hit with an early penalty from Hodgson.
And the hosts’ cause was further hampered when Zach Kibirige showed excellent control to collect a well-weighted kick and score in the corner.
Waisea Luvenyali looked to have further extended Newcastle’s lead when he broke to collect a kick and touch down out wide but he was adjudged to have stepped into touch en route.
The visitors would score again two minutes from time when Kibirige broke on the wing, powered through a tackle and scored in the corner.
It took until the final minute for the Knights to breach the Newcastle 22 but further poor handling saw their bid for a second try denied.
KNIGHTS: Lennard, Flockhart, Mama, Tincknell, Lewis (Symons, 40), Braid, Silver (Hallam, 45), Davies, Buckley, Brookes (McGovern, 65), Challinor, Parsons (Cadman, 68), Pailor (Boyde, 73), Rawling (Hafu, 54), Planchant. Not used: Francis.
Newcastle: Fielder, Kibirige, Crockett (Helleur, 71), Tu’ipulotu, Shortland, Hodgson (Luveniyali, 65), Lawson, Golding, Vickers (Thompson, 65), Tomaszczyk (Welch, 56), Del Fava (Goode, 70), Hudson, Wilson, Mayhew (Wilson, 56), Tu’ifua. Not used: Fury.