THE Knights’ hopes of progression in the British and Irish Cup suffered a major blow as they lost 35-23 at home to Welsh Premiership leaders Pontypridd on Saturday.
For the third B&I Cup clash, Lynn Howell rotated his small Doncaster squad from the side which beat Llandovery the previous weekend.
And it looked to have paid off as the Knights dominated possession and territory in an impressive first half.
But they failed to turn possession into points and the defence was at its porous worst after the break as Pontypridd hit back.
Dougie Flockhart came in at full back for the injured Steve McColl with Matt Williams returning on the wing while Leeds half back Craig Hampson was in for Nathan Jones at scrum half.
Dan Frazier, Steve Boden, Dom Parsons, Chris Walker and Latu Makaafi all came into the starting line up.
The Knights opened the scoring when fly-half Tristan Roberts landed a penalty goal in the ninth minute and, after Pontypridd had equalised through his opposite number Simon Humberstone, the Knights underlined their early dominance when centre PJ Gidlow raced over for a try which Roberts converted.
Roberts then slotted over another penalty before the Welshmen brought the half-time score back to 13-10 when winger Owen Williams evaded two defenders and sprinted over in the corner. Humberstone did well to convert.
Pontypridd had snatched the lead within four minutes of the match resuming when centre Gavin Dacey crashed over for a try which Humberstone again converted.
The Knights swung the game back in their favour when Roberts pulled back a penalty and then converted their final try by winger Andy Wright to give the Knights a 23-17 lead.
However, their joy was short-lived. Just two minutes later Ponty scrum-half Lewis Jones plunged over near the corner flag and Humberstone again came up with the goods to convert.
Humberstone then added two further penalties to make the score 23-30, and to rub salt into the wounds their centre Dafydd Lockyer crashed over to earn the Welshmen a bonus point with just a minute left on the clock.
The Knights return to RFU Championship action on Saturday with the visit of Plymouth Albion in a 2.30pm start.