Doncaster RLFC suffer derby defeat to Sheffield Eagles
and live on Freeview channel 276
Victory over League One hosts Midlands Hurricanes in their second and final group game will see them progress and put paid to the the Dons’ hopes.
Eagles were never behind and looked to be coasting to victory when scoring three unanswered tries in a dominant third quarter.
But Doncaster regrouped and had them hanging on at the end and could have snatched a dramatic victory had stand-off Ben Johnston being able to ground the ball over the line 14 minutes from time.
Eagles led 8-6 at the end of a hard-fought first half during which both sides had a man sin-binned.
The home side almost got off to a dream start when former Hull FC star Joe Lovodua, who again impressed, created the opening for full-back Josh Guzdek but he was halted just short of the line.
Eagles shaded the rest of the first quarter and Doncaster’s hopes of breaking the deadlock weren’t helped when they were reduced to 12 men on 18 minutes - skipper Sam Smeaton, who had been penalised for a similar offence a couple of minutes earlier – being sin-binned for a high tackle.
Despite spells of sustained pressure by the big pack, Eagles were denied by some resolute defending until a favourable deflection from a grubber-kick helped set-up the chance for loose-forward Tendai Gwaze, who had tested the Doncaster defence earlier, to crash over from close range for a 27th minute try converted by half-back Corey Aston.
No sooner had Eagles forward Evan Hodgson been sin-binned in the 33rd minute than Lovodua broke the line 25 metres out and ran strongly before sending second-rower Alex Sutcliffe over from close range.
Connor Robinson levelled the scores at 6-6 with an excellent conversion only for Aston’s boot gave Eagles a narrow interval lead at the end of a first half which turned scrappy at times after a bright start.
What promised to be a repeat of the first half proved anything but as the Eagles but the result beyond doubt during an impressive third quarter.
The strong-running Oliver Roberts struck first from close range on 43 minutes to earn his side a 12-6 lead.
Aston secure his side a 12-point lead after Hodgson crossed a couple of minutes later.
The Dons hit back strongly and several players, including stand-off Johnston, were held just short but the Sheffield line held firm.
But they found themselves with a mountain to climb after Roberts powered his way over for a fourth Eagles try on 56 minutes following a determined carry.
Johnston gave the subdued home fans something to cheer when sneaking over from close range for a try converted by Robinson.
No sooner had the cheers died down than Lovodua showed his pace on a 35m run after the Dons had cut the Eagles defence wide open in the centre of midfield. Robinson again added the conversion to cut the deficit to just four points and it was ‘game on’.
The momentum remained with the Dons and Johnston again got over the line on 66 minutes only to be held up.
Eagles had further chances but it was Doncaster who finished strongly and the visitors had to dig deep defensively to keep them out.
Dons: Guzdek, Briscoe, Hey, Tali, Halliday, Johnston, Robinson, Holdstock, Lovodua, Matagi, Smeaton, Sutcliife, Ferres. Subs: Keelan Foster, Pauli, Hepi, Boas. 18th man: Hall.
Eagles: Hansen, Jones-Bishop, Welham, Glover, Dawson-Jones, Aston, Thackeray, Battye, Halafihi, Clark, Alex Foster, Farrell, Gwaze. Subs: Wood, Roberts, Liu, Hodgon. 18th man: Bower.