Doncaster RLFC 12 Whitehaven 22: Dons' automatic promotion hopes dented by leaders
Former England international stand-off Rangi Chase celebrated his return to action following a two-year drugs ban in Sunday’s Betfred League One four-pointer at the LD Nutrition Stadium.
But it failed to save fourth-placed Doncaster from a 22-12 defeat against leaders Whitehaven.
Although only four points separated the two sides prior to Whitehaven scoring a late converted try, few would argue the Cumbrians deserved to take the spoils.
Tries either side of half time proved crucial as the Cumbrians, who trailed 12-2 at one stage, edged into a 14-12 lead they rarely looked like losing as the Dons struggled to contain their big pack as they charged down the slope.
The Dons started brightly and Chase wasted no time in displaying his legendary handling skills.
But for an inside forward pass by winger Matty Chrimes scrum-half Matty Beharrell would have scored a fifth-minute try.
The Dons weren’t to be denied an early score, however, and winger Sam Doherty beat his opposite number to a high kick to the corner by Beharrell, who also added the extras, on seven minutes.
The Cumbrians hit back strongly through their big forwards but the Dons defended well and they had nothing to show for their efforts until winger Connor Holliday converted the first penalty of the game on 14 minutes to close the gap to 6-2.
The Cumbrians enjoyed the better of the territorial exchanges in the first quarter but came close to conceding a second try on 22 minutes.
Beharrell, who posed a threat whenever he had the ball in an attacking position in the first half, threaded a neat grubber-kick through the Whitehaven defensive line ten metres out but Chrimes just failed to make contact before the ball ran dead.
The Dons did extend their lead just short of the half-hour when Chase bumped off two defenders close to the line to present his fellow half-back to convert.
The Cumbrians cut the deficit to just four points with a close-range try by former player-coach Carl Forster on 34 minutes which Holliday converted.
The second half got off to a disastrous start for the Dons with young dual-registered full-back Connor Wynne, who had shown up well in the first half, dropping the ball from the kick-off and creating the position from which Forster forced his way over, from close range for a second converted try.
Centre Jason Tali was held up over the line in the corner on 50 minutes prior to the Dons bombing their best chance of the half - Wynne throwing out a forward pass to the unmarked Chrimes.
Wynne went some way to making amends when he pulled off a try-saving tackle on Whitehaven winger Andrew Bullman on 58 minutes.
Holliday extended Whitehaven’s lead to four points with a 50m penalty.
The visitors put the result beyond doubt on 74 minutes with a strong run by Jessie Joe Parker setting up a converted try by Bullman.
Dons: Wynne, Doherty, Bower, Tali, Chrimes, Chase, Beharrell; Boyle, Kesik, Scott, Hodgson, Washbrook, Hedges. Subs: Owen, Brown, Bastas, Litten.