Doncaster RLFC 44 Whitehaven 6
Doncaster RLFC look to have what it takes to mount a strong challenge for the Bedfred Division One title on the evidence of their impressive 44-6 win over Whitehaven at the Keepmoat Stadium.
This was the club’s first real test, following two runaway wins against teams they were expected to beat easily, and they came through with flying colours.
They ran in nine tries – several of which were spectacular long-range efforts - against a side which finished in the top three last season .
They also defended well and not many teams will restrict the Cumbrians - even though they currently don’t look to be a strong as last year - to just one try this season.
The Cumbrians shaded the opening exchanges and it was slightly against the run of play when the Dons, who had full-back Richard Owen in the sin-bin at the time, took the lead on ten minutes.
Good work by hooker Kieran Cross, who shot past several defenders in the Whitehaven 20, sent the supporting Jordan Howden over for a try converted by Liam Harris.
Cross proved a handful for the Cumbrians from acting half-back on several occasions
Harris, who must be one of the quickest half-backs outside of the top flight, outstripped the cover on a 90 metre run to the line after latching on to an attacking Whitehaven grubber-kick.
The former Hull KR man added the extras to make it 12-0 on the half-hour.
The strong-running Cumbrians probably felt the scoreline flattered the Dons and hooker James Tilley did something about it when burrowing his way over from close range to score near enough for Billsborough to convert to make it 12-6.
The Dons extended their lead to 14-6 on 38 minutes when Harris hit the target with a penalty after Tilley had been sin-binned for a foul.
What could have been 14-8 at the interval turned out to be 20-6 when Harris collected a long-range penalty by Billsborough which had gone wide behind his own line and kicked into space to his left where winger Jack Sanderson collected and raced 80m away to score another converted try on the whistle.
As if to rub salt into Whitehaven’s wounds the Dons scored again within four minutes of the restart – winger Sam Doherty outjumping his opposite number to collect Howden’s kick on the Whitehaven line.
The Dons were in again ten minutes later, centre Connor Bower forcing his way over from close range.
Another perfectly-judged kick by Howden, who was an influential figure throughout, saw Doherty palm the ball back for Bower to bag his second to make it 32-6.
Dual-registered Hull FC hooker Jez Litten also touched down before Whitehaven threatened for the first time since the break around the hour mark only to be met by a solid Blue defensive wall.
Howden set up another try for Sanderson on 72 minutes prior to scoring his second.
Dons: Owen, Doherty, Bower, Tali, Sanderson, Howden, Harris; Boyle, Cross, Scott, Downs, Martin, Wilkinson. Subs: Spiers, Litten, Braham, Hedges.