Newcastle Thunder 20 Doncaster RLFC 22: Dons maintain unbeaten start to season
Doncaster RLFC claimed their first victory at Kingston Park when beating Newcastle Thunder 22-20 to maintain their unbeaten start to their League One campaign.
But they were made to work much harder than they had done when posting a 34-0 Challenge Cup win over the same opposition at the Keepmoat Stadium nine days earlier in a game which could have gone either way.
The Dons got off to a dream start when scrum-half Liam Harris, who played a starring role in the Challenge Cup victory, sent second-rower Charlie Martin over for a first-minute try.
The home side hit back strongly but, as was the case at the Keepmoat Stadium, they came up against some dogged defence and the nearest they came to a try was when Cook Islands prop Vince Rennie was held up over the line.
The Dons weathered the storm and would have doubled their lead at the end of the first quarter had Martin held on to Brandan Wilkinson’s pass five metres out.
Thunder’s relief was short-lived, however and their failure to deal with a high kick by Harris saw dual-registered Hull FC forward Jack Downs collect the loose ball for a try goaled by full-back Hakim Miloudi.
Thunder hit back when hooker Evan Simmons touched down for a 30th minute try after backing up a break by stand-off Lewis Young – the 2017 Division One young player of the year - to leave his side trailing by just four points at the break.
The home side opened up a 12-10 lead on 47 minutes when vice-captain Rhys Clarke celebrated his first game of the season when crashing over for a try at the side of the post which scrum-half Tom Shaw converted.
It was the first time this season that the Dons had been behind in a game.
They fell further behind after being punished for a high tackle on dual-registered centre Tuoyo Egodo and Shaw again hit the target with a 52nd minute penalty.
Little had been seen of the Dons as an attacking threat this half and that needed to change in the final quarter, as it did, if they were to come away with the spoils against a side expected to be one of their promotion rivals.
Miloudi, who equalled the club’s points-in-a-game record in his only other game for the club, started to exert his influence in attack.
After forcing a goal-line drop out several minutes earlier he supplied the pass from which winger Sam Doherty somehow managed to touch down in the corner on 65 minutes to level the scores at 14-all.
The French international tagged on the touchline conversion for good measure to edge the Dons into the lead.
Bouyed by the score, the Dons struck again three minutes later with Miloudi racing over for a try after backing up a break by second-rower Brad England.
Miloudi’s third conversion saw the Dons open up an eight-point lead with just over ten minutes to go.
Thunder refused to go away and set-up a grandstand finish with a 79th minute converted try but the Dons hung on to avoid a fourth successive league defeat by the home side.
Dons: Miloudi, Logan, Bower, Welham, Doherty, Hedges, Harris; Spiers, Kesik, Scott, England, Martin, Wilkinson. Subs: Braham, Muranka, Downs, Litten.