Doncaster RLFC and Whitehaven play out thrilling draw

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It finished honours even in a thrilling Betfred Championship game at the sun-drenched Eco-Power Stadium as Doncaster RLFC and Whitehaven battled out a 25-25 draw.

Scrum-half Connor Robinson, forced on to his wrong foot, was wide with a 20m drop goal attempt in the last minute of a five-minute period of injury time.

He looked to have won the game for the Dons when edging them into a one-point lead with a drop goal in the first minute of added time only for Jake Carter to level the scores in a chaotic period during which both sides made numerous handling mistakes when trying to win the game.

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The Cumbrians, who became the first side to take a point of Widnes at home in their last away game, made a confident start and took a 6-0 lead after just seven minutes when big prop Guy Graham burst over from close range for a try converted by stand-off Carter.

Dons v Whitehaven. Picture via @Doncaster_RLFCDons v Whitehaven. Picture via @Doncaster_RLFC
Dons v Whitehaven. Picture via @Doncaster_RLFC

Guilty of playing too laterally at times in the first half, the Dons hit back strongly with centre Jason Tali again showing up well and winger Bureta Faraimo twice went close.

Whitehaven’s big forwards continued to test the Doncaster defence and their pressure paid off when centre Curtis Teare touched down for a 25th minute try following some good handling in the Doncaster 20. Carter’s conversion went in off the far post to leave the Dons trailing 12-0.

The Dons went close to cutting the deficit from a high kick to the corner by Robinson which winger Luke Briscoe palmed back close to the line.

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The Dons wasted no time in making their numerical advantage count after the visitors were reduced to 12 men on 36 minutes following prop Lucas Castle’s sin-binning.

The ball was moved out to the right after hard-working loose-forward Loui McConnell had been held just short under the posts, with winger Briscoe, who is proving to be one of the club’s best close-season signings, finishing well to open their account.

But their hopes of making further inroads into Whitehaven’s lead before the interval were dashed when a grubber kick by full-back Craig Hall rebounded kindly for speedy winger Edene Gebbie who never looked like being caught on his 80m run to the line for a try which Carter again converted to give his side a healthy 18-4 lead.

The Dons started the second half knowing that they realistically had to score first and they did just that on 42 minutes when big second-rower Pauli Pauli crashed over from close range for a try converted by Robinson which reduced the deficit to eight points.

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With their forwards running with more aggression than they had done for much of the first half, the home continued to take the game to the Cumbrians and scored again when Faraimo won the race to skipper Brett Ferres’s delicate grubber kick on 49 minutes.

The Dons took the lead for the first time in the match two minutes later. Hooker Joe Lovodua broke well before finding the hard-working McConnell on his inside and he touched down under the post to present the influential Robinson with the easiest of conversions to make it 20-18.

Whitehaven’s first spell of pressure of the half saw loose-forward Ryan King cross from close range for a converted 56th minute try which earned them a four-point lead,

Robinson, whose excellent midfield break set up the position, saw Briscoe beat his opposite number to his pin-point kick to the corner to level the scores at 24-24.

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Briscoe produced a try-saving tackle to deny Gebbie another long-range try after he latched on to a loose ball from Hall’s cross-field kick.

The two sides had the chance to win the game prior to injury-time but a combination of good defence and sloppy handling denied them both.

Dons: Hall, Briscoe, Hey, Tali, Faraimo, Boas, Robinson, Foster, Burns, Knowles, Ferres, Sutcliffe, McConnell. Subs: Lovodua, Pauli, Kenga, Wilde. 18th man: Guzdek.

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