Newcastle Thunder 26 Doncaster RLFC 32: Dons make winning start to League One campaign
Doncaster RLFC produced a superb second half display to steal fellow promotion hopefuls Newcastle’s thunder in their opening Betfred League One game of the season at Kingston Park.
The Dons looked to be heading home empty-handed when trailing 22-4 at the break but they stunned the home fans when hitting back to claim a 32-26 win.
The Dons, who hadn’t played since their last pre-season friendly three weeks ago, took time to find their rhythm on Newcastle’s 3G pitch and the big-spending home side dominated territory and possession for long periods in the first half and were good value for their interval lead.
The Dons, who finished last season in third place after ending the campaign with a club-record run of ten successive wins, regrouped after the break and adopted a more expansive game-plan which resulted in five tries.
Thunder got off to a flying start and led 6-0 after just five minutes with a converted try by Alex Clegg.
The Dons hit back with centre Connor Bower getting on the end of a kick by stand-off Jordan Howden.
The home side, who have been installed as second favourites behind Oldham for the title, opened up a 16-4 lead with further tries by Misi Taulapapa and Lewis Young.
Mo Agoro touched down for another converted try just before the break following some good handling.
Knowing they realistically needed to score first in the second half the Dons did just that with hooker Kyle Kesik setting up a close-range 42nd minute try for loose-forward Jordie Hedges.
Former Dons prop Alex Rowe went close to a debut try for Newcastle before centre Jason Tali touched down against his first British club two minutes later.
Matty Beharell again tagged on the extras prior to setting-up the chance for new signing Matty Chrimes to cut inside to score from his floated pass.
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That left the Dons just two points behind going into the final quarter.
Howden put his side in front for the first time when touching down for a try after Beharrell had created the position with a 40-20 kick to touch.
A mistake by Tali saw his team-mates forced to dig deep in defence.
Dual-registered second-rower Danny Langtree combined with Sam Doherty to create the chance for Kesik who just managed to scramble over after having his ankle tapped.
Leading 32-22 with five minutes or so on the clock, the Dons looked home and dry.
But they found themselves down to 11 men for the closing stages, during which time Clegg went over for a second converted try, after Kesik was sin-binned and Howden became the second player to limp off with an ankle injury, a minute later.
But they held out to claim a morale-boosting win on a ground where few teams are likely to come away with the spoils.
Dons: Wynne, Chrimes, Bower, Tali, Doherty, Howden, Beharrell, Boyle, Kesik, Douglass, Langtree, Foster, Hedges. Subs: Scott, Spiers, Dixon, Cross.