Doncaster RLFC defeat York Knights in Championship opener

Doncaster RLFC got their first Betfred Championship campaign in eight years off to a winning start when putting York Knights to the sword at the Eco-Power Stadium in an entertaining encounter.
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An unanswered 16-point scoring burst in the third quarter, which saw them open up a 28-10 lead, laid the foundations for their impressive 36-20 victory over the fancied Knights who had finished the first half on top despite trailing by two points.

Doncaster’s victory was even more noteworthy considering the fact that it was their first game in six weeks whereas the Knights, who finished in the play-offs last season, had played two cup games during that period.

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Both sides went close to a try before the Dons took the lead on 17 minutes - full-back Craig Hall joining the attack and picking out winger Tom Halliday with a long pass 20 metres out. Former York scrum-half Connor Robinson added the extras.

Dons' players celebrate Ben Johnston's try. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTDDons' players celebrate Ben Johnston's try. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTD
Dons' players celebrate Ben Johnston's try. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTD

No sooner had the cheers died down than Robinson’s lively half-back partner Ben Johnston was on hand to capitalise when York failed to deal with a high kick by Hall close to their own line.

A 12-0 lead at the start of the second quarter was probably more than head coach Richard Horne could reasonably have hoped for at the start of the game but with former Leeds star Richie Myler a growing influence, York had the better of the second period.

Centre Myles Harrison was bundled into touch close to the line on 28 minutes following some snappy handling along the line. The same player was denied a second time when being held up over the by three defenders.

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It only proved a stay of execution, however, with Jack Teanby touching down near enough for stand-off Nikau Williams to covert after the Dons had failed to deal with a teasing kick over the line by Myler.

The visitors continued to have the better of the play and Towse produced a brave finish to reward another bout of excellent handling. But with Williams failing to convert the Dons held on to secure a 12-10 interval lead.

The Dons knew that they needed to regain the initiative after the break and did just that when big second-rower Pauli Pauli, a close-seaon signing from York, powered his way over from close range for a 42nd minute try converted by Robinson.

The Dons stretched their lead to 22-10 six minutes later when the speedy Halliday touched down for his second try of the game.

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Skipper Sam Smeaton added to York’s woes on 53 minutes when he forced his way over from close range after York had fumbled another clever cross-field kick by the impressive Hall. Robinson’s conversion left the visitors trailing 28-10 and facing an uphill battle to save the game.

Knights, who contributed to their own downfall with a series of handling mistakes in the second half, in stark contrast to their first half showing, fell further behind when Robinson booted over a 62nd minute penalty.

They opened their account for the second half with a 68th minute converted try by Josh Daley followed four minutes later by an unconverted try in the corner by winger Tom Lineham – one of three former Super League backs in their side.

But that was as close as they got and the powerful Pauli ensured the Dons had the final word with his second close-range converted try late on.

Dons: Hall, Briscoe, Lyne, Hey, Halliday, Johnston, Robinson, Knowles, Burns, Matagi, Sutcliffe, Smeaton, McConnell. Subs: Pauli, Hepi, Boas, Ferres. 18th man: Guzdek.