Doncaster RLFC 18 Leeds Rhinos 26: Dons pipped by young Leeds side

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Leeds Rhinos finished strongly to pip the Dons 26-18 in the League One club’s final pre-season friendly.

A 75th minute penalty and a last-minute converted try dashed Doncaster’s hopes of a confidence-boosting result ahead of their first competitive game on Sunday week.

Even if it had ended 18-all, as it looked like doing at one stage, there would still have been plenty of things head coach Gary Thornton needed to work on this week.

Only four players at the club last season started the game and it showed at times in both attack and defence.

Thornton’s job in the three pre-season games, two of which were lost, hasn’t been helped by the fact he’s had to play a makeshift combination at half-back in the last two and that several key forwards, including skipper Kyle Kesik have yet to feature.

He also lived up to his promise to give everyone the chance to impress which served to affect the team’s cohesion at times.

On the plus side, veteran forward Makali Aizue finally made his debut and did enough to suggest he will be a big asset when fully fit.

Young props Connor Scott and Zak Braham also caught the eye again and will prove good competition for the likes of Aizue and Mark Castle when he returns.

The Dons made most of the early running and took the lead on five minutes when hooker Ben Frankland crossed from close range after Scott had been held short. Tom Carr tagged on the extras.

The young Leeds side came more into the game and went close on a couple of occasions.

The home side looked to have increased their lead when half-backs Tom Carr and Jordie Hedges combined to send Braham charging through only to see him fail to ground.

Leeds rode their luck and drew level on 21 minutes when centre Tommy Brierley broke the line to score a converted try.

Former Huddersfield Giants’ forward. Anthony Mullally was a threat throughout in only his second game for Leeds and capped an impressive first half display with a 31st minute converted try.

Coach Gary Thornton will have had plenty to say during the break following a first half display well below the standards set against Oxford a fortnight ago. Whatever Thorton said appeared to have the desired affect as Aizue made a typical break from his own half before off-loading to the supporting Kieran Cross who touched down near enough for Carr to convert to level the scores at 12-12.

With Hedges more involved this half, the Dons continued to take the game to Leeds.

But the visitors capitalised on their best spell of pressure since the break when scoring a third converted try just before the hour – livewire scrum-half Jack Wray scooting over from less than ten metres out.

Louis Sheriff, operating at scrum-half at this stage, touched down for a 68th minute try which Hedges goaled to level the scores at 18-18.

Dons: (squad): Sheriff, M Welham, Doherty, L Welham, Foggin-Johnson, Carr, Hedges, Scott, Frankland, Braham, Harper, Foster, Milton, Jones-Bishop, Cross, Aizue, Walton, Gilbey, Crowther, Nicholson, Cook, England, Vincent.