Rotherham Titans suffered their fourth successive defeat in the Championship, a losing sequence that is starting to look like a crisis.
For if the present run of poor form continues, Titans are in grave danger of dropping into National One.
The Clifton Lane club have nine league matches left in which they can secure their status as a Championship team; consecutive defeats by Jersey, London Scottish, Yorkshire Carnegie and now Pirates, have caused them to drop to ninth in the table on 27 points and they are battling to survive.
With no game next weekend and two Saturdays of British and Irish Cup action, Rotherham have four weeks off from the demands of the Championship until the South Yorkshire derby against promotion challengers Doncaster at Castle Park at the end of this month.
So coaches Mark Jones and Steve Salvin have more time to work on trying to put right the weaknesses which are threatening the Titans’ survival.
The Rotherham pack is not powerful enough and is unable to defend from line outs which turn into rolling mauls towards their line.
Four of the six tries conceded were the result of this glaring fault that is proving to be so costly, especially when Rotherham give penalties away.
They were losing badly 33-0 by 55 minutes and had not seemed capable of breaking through to score because when they created scoring positions near to the Pirates’ line, they lacked the power to penetrate.
However, following a yellow card against Pirates’ forward Laurie McGlone, Rotherham recovered spectacularly to score three fine tries between 65 and 74 minutes.
Backs Michael Keating and Sean Scanlon and then skipper and lock Tom Holmes touched down and with replacement fly half Ross Jones adding three conversions, Titans had scored 21 points in fewer than 10 minutes.
Hopes of a losing bonus point soared, but the gap was too large and when Pirates were back to 15 men, they scored a sixth try in added time.
Low on confidence and now depleted further following injuries to forwards Toby Salmon and George Oram, who will both miss several games with damaged thumbs, Rotherham face a huge test of their character as they try to escape from this self-inflicted mess.
Mark Jones, though, remains optimistic: “We have to be positive because we finished strongly and you don’t often lose when you score three good tries. But we can’t go on committing these simple errors, like indiscipline.
“Our kicking game was naïve at times and we gave Pirates 21 points. We had opportunities in the last third of the pitch and we didn’t capitalise and it is a concern that our pack can’t deal with rolling mauls.
“But having said that, our forwards did well and were physically strong against Doncaster earlier this season and against London Welsh.
Rotherham Titans: Scanlon, Keating, L.Hayes, Barker,J.Hayes, McKinney, Carter, Hislop, C.Maddison, Thiede, Holmes, Salmon, B.Maddison, Calladine, Argyle. Replacements: Preece, Cromie, Tampin, Oram, Birch, White, Jones.
Scorers: Tries: Keating, Scanlon, Holmes. Conversions: Jones 3.
Referee: Andrew Jackson.