Ulster Ravens were outscored by seven tries to two as they were well beaten by Rotherham Titans (52-17) in the sides’ British & Irish Cup round 4 clash at Clifton Lane.
Kieran Campbell's side ran in two late consolation tries through hard-working number 8 Charlie Butterworth and replacement hooker Paul Jackson, but the outcome had already been decided by then.
Michael Keating, the former Leinster and Ireland Under-20 winger, touched down for Rotherham and there was quite an Irish flavour to the Titans squad with Keating, Sean Scanlon, Willie Ryan and Ulstermen Ali Birch, Adam Macklin and James McKinney all involved.
Ulster and Ireland legend Jack Kyle was honoured beforehand with a minute's silence, which also saw the teams pay their respects to Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes.
The Ravens suffered an early setback when their young scrum half Connor Young suffered a neck injury in the sixth minute. He was taken to hospital where he was thankfully given the all-clear and returned home with the squad afterwards.
Belfast Harlequins' Josh Fullerton replaced Young, however, following the long injury delay, Rotherham wasted little time in forging ahead. Just a minute later, a lineout maul led to flanker Jack Preece touching down. Tom Barrett, who missed an earlier penalty, added the conversion.
The Ravens enjoyed a good spell in the Rotherham 22 and having pushed for a try in response, they had to settle for a well-struck penalty from Ballymena out-half Ritchie McMaster in the 19th minute.
That proved to be the Ulstermen's only score of the first half. Barrett replied with a penalty and on the half hour mark, former Ulster flanker Birch made a 25-metre carry to set up prop Robin Hislop for a converted effort.
Rotherham secured their third seven-pointer just before the break when Preece was driven over from close range as they moved 24-3 clear.
The bonus point was pocketed six minutes into the second period. The Ravens lost outside centre Jacob Stockdale to the sin-bin – try scorer Jackson was yellow-carded too in the final quarter – and Rotherham out-half Barrett took advantage to score a try which he converted himself.
Two more tries from Preece, who completed his hat-trick in the 56th minute, and left winger Keating (64) followed and although the visitors did eventually cross the whitewash themselves, Jamie Broadley bagged a seventh for Rotherham with three minutes left.
The Ravens never let their heads drop and kept battling for the full game, deservedly picking up scores from Butterworth (74) and Jackson (80) (pictured above), in the dying minutes, which replacement out-half Josh Bingham converted.
Campbell's charges will hope for better performances and results in their final Pool 2 fixtures against Yorkshire Carnegie and Aberavon next month.
They are on the road again next Sunday, travelling to Laund Hill in Huddersfield to take on a Carnegie side who won 43-32 away to Aberavon on Friday night.
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)