Never-say-die Currie scored two converted tries in the final few minutes and Donaldson was convinced at least one more play should have been allowed.
“In the second half there were a lot of injuries, three yellow cards and a penalty try. That is a lot of stoppages, so to only have three minutes (added on) surprised me,” said Donaldson.
“I thought we would have got a chance to have one last attack from the kick off.”
In fact, Currie’s woes were summed up by Malcolm Peacock receiving stitches under his chin behind the stand during the interval before he could rejoin a side who had Richard Snedden, Ross Weston, Billy Emslie, Fraser Watts and Denis Pech in the wars during the first half alone.
“It was like Emergency Ward 10,” added Donaldson, who insisted: “I’m not sure I have ever been so proud of a Currie performance.”
Such was the disruption in the home ranks that when Pech pulled a hamstring within a couple of minutes of replacing Emslie (knee) and became the latest front rower to retire, the game went to uncontested scrums on safety grounds.
Some frustration was evident in the Dundee ranks at this decision, judging by the colourful running dialogue that ensued between their captain Neil Dymock and Donaldson, but the Currie coach was adamant the situation did his side no favours. “Uncontested scrums were the last thing we wanted. We had already scored off one attacking scrum and almost had another try from the set-piece.”
Only a week earlier Currie had to enlist an emergency hooker in Tommy Wright, from Watsonians’ reserves, to fulfil their fixture at Ayr and going into the game they were deprived of Fergus Scott, Ross Merrilees, Mike Vernal and John Cox.
“We felt we had the winning of the game from the off and if we had kept our starting team on the pitch I think we would have won,” said Donaldson. “However, we were stretched by losing three guys injured at training on Thursday night and Jack Broadley immediately beforehand.
“Simeon James should not have played at all and both Mike Entwhistle and Jamie Forbes should have come off but, testimony to their character, stayed on.
“Lesser individuals than Jamie might have said, ‘I’ve got a chance of a first clubs international cap on Friday so I’m off’, but such was his commitment to the club, it never crossed his mind.
“That’s why I am so proud of the effort and if only we had got through this tie there might have been sufficient time before the semi-final to have got a stronger side together.”
While it was obvious that Currie were the more disrupted of the two teams, their poor recent league form had seriously dented confidence.
Customary bullishness has been replaced by a tentative element that was not entirely due to the injury list and a lack of authority behind the scrum was largely their undoing amidst generally poor quality fare. That said, to come back from ten points adrift to level and that reduce a 15 point gap to the narrowest of margins spoke volumes.
Also, on current form and provided he shakes off an elbow knock, Forbes must surely start for the club international side against Ireland at Ayr, although one former age-group representative coach told on Saturday of how the player’s diminutive stature had a habit of unfairly counting against him.
Currie didn’t help themselves either with the yellow cards handed out to Steve Burton and Andy Adam for breakdown infringements, although again Donaldson had a plausible answer.
“When you had guys playing out of position, some of them on one leg then that can happen.”
The coach also admitted: “We did not make Dundee work hard enough and gave away a couple of soft scores.”
He could have added that Currie had possession too easily turned over in the Dundee 22 and twice they were unable to apply downward pressure for tries when held up over the line.
That, too, proved decisive in a match which showed when their professionals allocations are debarred under Cup rules, Currie resources are being badly stretched.
Currie led only briefly when, after Jack Steele had slotted a penalty, they replied with an unconverted Ross Weston try off a back-row move.
Tries by Andy McLean and Richie McIvor, within the space of three minutes, opened up daylight, but Mike Erskine’s break saw Forbes on hand to score and convert.
Turning round 12-15 adrift, Currie levelled through Forbes’ boot, but tries from Callum Bowie and Danny Levison allied to a Steele penalty appeared to settle the issue.
That was not to allow for a penalty try when Forbes was high tackled in the act of scoring by McIvor, who was promptly sin-binned and a touchdown from James in what proved – frustratingly – the final act.
To say it was too little, too late would be stretching it, though this was not the stylish Currie of even a couple of years ago and only guts and determination got them so close in the first place.
Scorers: Currie: Tries: Weston, Forbes, James, penalty try. Conversions: Forbes (2), Van der Westerloo. Penalty: Forbes. Dundee High: Tries: McLean, Bowie, Levison, McIvor. Cons: Steele (2) Pens: Steele (2).
Currie: J Forbes, M Peacock, S James, A Hinds, A Whittingham, C van der Westerloo, R Snedden, A Hamilton, W Elmslie, F Watts, G Temple, A Adam, M Cairns (captain), R Weston, M Entwhistle. Subs: D Pech, M Erskine, S Burton, M Johnstone, J Swaleck.
Dundee High: J Urquhart, A McLean, H Duthie, R Lavery, C Bowie, J Steele, A Dymock, N Dymock (captain), D Russell, A Brown, C Cumming, A Linton, D Levison, R McIvor, I Wilson. Subs: S Longwell, G Robertson, J Morrison, J Rutnagur, R Lemon.