Dons boss delighted to negotiate 'scrappy' semi-final

Doncaster RLFC took a giant step towards a return to the Betfred Championship after eight years when beating in-form Hunslet 26-14 in their League One semi-final at the South Leeds Stadium on Sunday night.
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The Dons were not as impressive as they had been when beating Oldham in the previous round.

But they finished worthy winners against a side which had won eight games in succession prior to losing up at Workington in their last game of the regular season.

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“Obviously I am pleased with the result but it was a scrappy game and our completion rate in the first half was less than 50 per cent,” said head coach Richard Horne.

Sam Smeaton celebrates his record breaking try. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX.comSam Smeaton celebrates his record breaking try. Picture: Howard Roe/
Sam Smeaton celebrates his record breaking try. Picture: Howard Roe/

“Even though it would have been more humid, I would have preferred to have kicked-off at the normal time because we wouldn’t have had the dew which made handling difficult. It wasn’t just us because fortunately they were just as bad as us in that respect.

“We didn’t make a great start to the game, as we had done against Oldham with Tom (Halliday) dropping the ball from the kick-off and that led to their first try with Mahe (Fonua) missing his opposite number, who is also a big lad, in a one-on-one from the resulting scrum.

“I thought both half-backs were quiet and didn’t really get into the game as they usually do and we spoke about that at half time. We needed them to take control of the game in the second half and get their hands on the ball more in order to improve our last-tackle plays which did get better but still way off what we’d expect.

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Hunslet had dominated the first half territorially but we flipped that on its head in the second half.

“We always know we are going to get opportunities to score in games and we took them tonight which we haven’t done in some previous games and probably didn’t when we played them here in the league back in July.”

Horne, who had to bring in 18th man Luke Cooper when forward Alex Holdstock was injured in the warm-up, singled out loose-forward Loui McConnell, among others, for praise.

“I thought he was outstanding today, as he has been all season, and he made a couple of half-breaks with his foot work,” he said.

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“I thought he was unlucky to be penalised in the first half for passing off the floor to Ben Johnston who subsequently had his try disallowed. I thought he had fallen on his side and not his ball-carrying arm.

“Brad Hay produced another solid performance in the centre and Watson (Boas) looked lively when he came on.”

Horne, who predicts that his charges will face Hunslet again in the final, took time out to thank the Doncaster supporters who made their presence felt throughout the game.

“They really got behind the lads,” he said.