Doncaster RLFC turn attention to league opener after Challenge Cup exit

Doncaster RLFC’s veteran back Misi Taulapapa is likely to miss the start of the Betfred Championship season after dislocating his elbow in Sunday’s Challenge Cup defeat at Widnes Vikings.
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The former Samoan international, who was playing his first game of the season for the depleted Dons, was taken to hospital after falling awkwardly on the artificial grass pitch when being tackled just short of the line in the first half.

Teammate Reece Lyne was also helped off midway through the second half but his ankle injury isn’t believed to be as bad as it first looked.

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“We’ll access him at our first training session this week but he seems to think that he’ll be okay,” said head coach Richard Horne.

Misi TaulapapaMisi Taulapapa
Misi Taulapapa

With no game for a month due to their exit from both the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup and the Challenge Cup, the Dons are looking at the possibility of arranging a friendly with a League One club ahead of their league opener against York City Knights on March 17.

“We would like another game so that the players get used to their bodies taking a hit before the start of the season but if we can’t we’ll step up the contact in training,” said Horne.

“In any case, we’ve got five weeks to tidy everything up and get things right ahead of the York game and we know where we need to be at after playing Championship rivals Sheffield and Widnes.”

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The Dons went into the tie lacking the services of star half-back Ben Johnston, winger Luke Briscoe, centre Jason Tali, loose-forward Loui McConnell, back-rower Brett Ferres (ill) and big forward Pauli Pauli who was serving a one-match ban.

“A couple of the injured players could have played at a push but we didn’t want to risk it,” said Horne. “As a result we were down to the bare bones and we had two debutants on the bench (including former Bentley junior Jude Thompson). We might have played one but not both but they didn’t do themselves any harm and was a learning curve for them.”

Hooker Greg Burns was also playing his first game of the season and looked determined to impress the head coach after being left out of the two cup games,

“I’ve got to take my hat off to Greg,” said Horne. “It was his first game back and he had to play the full 80 minutes because of the injuries and who we had on the bench. It wasn’t the plan but he had a great game and it was good to see that he can play the full 80 minutes if needed even though it is unlikely, he’ll be asked to do so moving forward.

Another forward to catch the eye was prop Suaia Matagi.

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“I thought Suaia did a great job in the middle,” said Horne.

Former Hull FC and Wakefield centre Lyne also impressed Horne before being

“He looked dangerous in a one-on-one every time he touched the ball and it was good to see him get over and show what he is capable of,” he said.