Doncaster RLFC: Head coach Gary Thornton looks ahead to Super 8s challenge

Gary Thornton
Gary Thornton

Despite the Dons having achieved their target of a top-four spot in the regular League One season the job of winning promotion back to the Championship is only half done.

The club now need to finish in the top five of the forthcoming Super 8s - contested by the teams which finished in the top eight positions - to contest the promotion play-offs.

“We are now at the business end of the season,” said head coach Gary Thornton.

“It gets tougher from here because, unlike the league campaign, there will be no easy games.”

As a result of finishing in the top four, four of the club’s seven Super 8 games will be at home - against Toulouse, Barrow, Keighley and London Skolars.

Said Thornton: “We’ve got Toulouse, who are the favourites, at home which is a big advantage on several fronts not least the travelling.”

Reflecting on the make-up of the top-eight, Thornton said: “It’s pretty much as I expected, though not knowing much about them at the time I didn’t expect Rochdale to be as strong.

“I expected Barrow to do a bit better.

“They looked a good side at the Keepmoat but they’ve been a bit inconsistent.

“London Skolars have surprised me with how well they have done.

“I am also very surprised that Hunslet, who came down with us, had to win their last game to make the eight.”

Having taken York City Knights to the play-off final in 2014, Thornton knows from experience what’s required.

“You’ve certainly got to turn up for every game and, equally as important, keep your key players fit,” he said.

“It’s going to be tough to overhaul either Toulouse or Rochdale to claim a top-two finish, which would give us two shots at promotion. They play-off at the end the Super 8s with the winners being promoted and the losing side playing the fifth-placed side at home in the play-off semi-finals.

“Obviously if we can’t finish in the top two we need to be targeting third spot which would give us home advantage in the other semi-final.”