Doncaster RLFC suffer derby defeat to Sheffield Eagles

There was no pot of gold, or two points, for Doncaster RLFC at the end of the rainbow which made a brief appearance at the Eco-Power Stadium in the final quarter of a cracking Good Friday Betfred Championship derby against Sheffield Eagles.
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But there was much to admire about their performance against the in-form Eagles - whose only defeat this season came in their previous game away to world club champions Wigan Warriors in the Challenge Cup - in a game which could they easily have won.

Indeed, they led 20-14 midway through the second half and looked to be on track for a second successive victory against sides which finished in the play-offs last season only for Eagles to bag two quickly-taken tries to claim a 26-20 victory.

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The Dons made a bright start during which centre Brad Hey was stopped inches from the line.

Dons' Reece Lyne drives forward with the ball. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTDDons' Reece Lyne drives forward with the ball. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTD
Dons' Reece Lyne drives forward with the ball. Picture: Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTD

But a dropped kick by full-back Josh Guzdek, one of four former Sheffield players in the Doncaster starting line-up, ten metres from his own line created the position from which Eagles opened the scoring.

The Dons did well to hold prop Tyler Dickinson up over the line but It only proved a stay of execution with stand-off Corey Aston, who also added the extras, touching down out wide seconds later from a clever kick by half-back partner Anthony Thackeray.

Eagles went close to a second try by hooker Vila Halafihi from an awkwardly bouncing chip kick to the line by the influential Thackeray.

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The half-back was also held up over the line but once again Eagles weren’t to be denied with full-back Jack Hansen touching down out wide to give his side a 10-0 lead.

The Dons hit back against the run of play with a 60m try on 23 minutes.

Centre Reece Lyne made a superb break from inside his own half and raced deep into Sheffield territory before finding Guzdek up in support who finished well to help make amends for his earlier mistake. Connor Robinson tagged on the extras to close the gap to four points.

Sheffield came under further pressure before returning to the attack - a strong break down the right by centre Kris Welham should have led to a third try but winger Ben Jones-Bishop dropped his reverse pass ten metres out.

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The Dons rode their luck and opened up a 12-10 lead a minute later when Robinson, whose battle against Thackeray was one of the highlights of the first half, dummied his way over from ten metres out for a try he again converted.

Eagles looked all set to regain the lead when forward Aaron Murphy raced clear with only Guzdek to beat but the chance was lost when a subsequent pass went astray.

Eagles remained on the attack but just when it looked as though the Dons would hold out until the hooter, James Glover touched down from an astute chip kick over the line by Thackeray to earn his side a 14-12 interval lead.

Eagles started the second half strongly but it was the Dons who bagged the first score.

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Having seen Pauli Pauli, who always proved a handful for Eagles with ball in hand, held up over the line, Joe Lovodua won the race to touch down from a neat kick over the line by stand-off Ben Johnston on 47 minutes. Robinson again added the extras as well as adding a 50th minute penalty to earn his side a six-point lead.

Sheffield rallied and the Dons did well to deny a close-range charge by Oliver Roberts on 57 minutes but a further spell of pressure led to Welham touching down wide out after the home side had failed to clear a kick by Aston kick to the corner.

Eagles got their noses in front again (24-20) on 65 minutes when Matthew Dawson-Jones defied a last-ditch cover tackle by Tom Halliday to score from a long pass by the impressive Conner Bower and Aston added the touchline conversion.

Good handling from inside their own half saw Dons winger Luke Briscoe get clear with only Hansen to beat but he was nailed by the cover as he cut inside – a tackle which led to Glover being sin-binned.

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Briscoe then had the ball knocked out of his hands as he dived over the line prior to Aston kicking a 76th minute penalty.

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

Eagles: Hansen, Jones-Bishop, Welham, Glover, Dawson-Jones, Aston, Thackeray, Battye, Halafihi, Dickinson, Foster, Bower, Gwaze. Subs: Farrell, Roberts, Murphy, Hodgson. 18th man: Liu.

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