Doncaster RLFC 54 Oxford 14: Dons go joint second with big win
In a week during which Dons boss Gary Thornton highlighted the problems facing new teams outside rugby league's traditional heartlands, his charges posted a 54-14 win over Oxford at the Keepmoat Stadium to move back into the top two in the table.
As if to hammer home the points made by Thornton, the Dons got off to a flying start and scored three tries in the first ten minutes.
The first two were scored out wide by Liam Welham, who had replaced second-rower Mike Kelly in the first minute.
The one-way traffic continued with veteran prop Makali Aizue powering his way over from close range. Carr added the simple conversion to make it 16-0 after less than ten minutes and Oxford already looked condemned to a ninth defeat in as many league games.
But, to to their credit, Oxford produced a spirted reply with centre Aaron Nicholson going over from close range for a 12th minute try converted by Nathan Kitson.
The visitors briefly looked like making a fight of it when a combination of poor tackling and inventive play led to winger Clark McAllister touching down to make it 16-10.
Welham, last season’s player of the year, turned provider when sending the supporting Carr, who just made it to the line, in from about 30 metres out 22 minutes. The full-back also added the extras to make it 22-10.
There was a let-off for Oxford a couple of minutes later when in-form centre Jason Tali, who subsequently lost the ball in the tackle, elected to ignore the unmarked David Foggin-Johnson on his outside 25 metres out with a try there for the taking.
It was all forgotten, however, as skipper Kyle Kesik forced his way over from close range just short of the half-hour. Carr again tagged on the extras to make it 28-10.
Winger Louis Sheriff outjumped his opposite number to touch down from a kick to the corner on 45 minutes to make it 32-10.
Hedges, playing with half-back partner Jordan Howden for the first time in a league game following injury problems to the pair of them, put Welham over for his hat-trick try, again converted by Carr, three minutes later.
Oxford, who never stopped trying, clawed four points back with an unconverted try by John James on the hour.
The Dons regained the initiative with Hedges rewarding good work by Aizue and Carr to touch down on 66 minutes.
No sooner had Oxford been reduced to 12 men for the second time than Sheriff dived over in the corner for a converted try.
Kesik sent Ryan Wright over at the death as the Dons topped the half-century mark for the first time this season in the league.
Dons: Carr, Sheriff, Doherty, Tali, Foggin-Johnson, Howden.Hedges, Aizue,Kesik, Scott, Kelly,Foster, B Nicholson.Subs: Wright, Paleaaesina, L Welham.
Oxford: Kitson, Nathanial, A Nicholson, Brooker, McAllister, Burnett, Allan, Meyer, Canterbury, Bustin, Siddons, Withington, Smith. Subs: Evans, James, Igbinedion, Bienek.
Referee: Andy Bentham.
* “I would have taken a win by 40 points at the start and it helped boost our points difference which isn’t as good as some of the other teams up there with us,” said head coach Gary Thornton.
“We scored some good tries and could have probably had a couple more had our execution been better out wide.
“We got off to a great start, though it was disappointing to lose Mike Kelly in the first minute, and we scored three early tries.
“But I was a bit disappointed with the way we let them back into the game with two tries; we seemed to switch off a bit and I don’t think we made them work hard enough for any of their three tries.
“But fair play to Oxford they showed a bit of spirit and ran they never stopped trying. As I said in the build-up they are a much better side than when we played them here in pre-season.
“We’ve now got a week off before we travel to Toulouse on Saturday week and we’ve got one or two players carrying bumps and bruises, so we’ll look at them this week.
“We’ll also give the players a bit of a rest and we’ll just train Tuesday and Thursday this week and give them Friday off.”
* Dons were watched by club legends from five decades and coach Tony Fisher who steered them to the top flight in the mid-90s.