Oldham 22 Doncaster RLFC 12: Dons beaten but have another chance to reach play-off final
Doncaster RLFC failed to upset the odds when going down 22-12 in their Betfred League One play-off clash against Oldham at the Vestacare Stadium.
They were second best on a day when Oldham booked their place in next month’s final and the margin of defeat flattered them.
The Dons, who will have a second opportunity to try and book their place in the final next weekend by coming up against Newcastle Thunder again, were their own worst enemies at times, giving away too many penalties in the first half and then making a catalogue of handling errors in the second half.
Oldham dominated the play for long periods in the first half with some astute tactical kicking and solid defence and arguably deserved better than a narrow 8-6 lead.
Hewitt, who proved a thorn in Doncaster’s side throughout, scored Oldham’s first try after wrong-footing a couple of defenders to score near enough for Crook, who had kicked an earlier penalty, to convert.
The Dons suffered a major blow when loose-forward Jordie Hedges suffered what looked a serious knee injury after being tackled just short of the line after a jinking run.
The Dons opened their account on 24 minutes when stand-off Rangi Chase produced a clever grubber-kick which sat up nicely for Beharrell, who also tagged on the conversion, under the posts.
But for a better inside pass by second-rower Danny Langtree just inside the Doncaster 20 Oldham would have been in again.
Doncaster also failed to turn a chance into points when centre Jason Tali, put away by Chase, elected to go for the line himself from 35m out rather than use the unmarked Tom Halliday to his left.
They also failed to capitalise on a chance on the opposite flank.
With the rain proving less of a handicap for Oldham, who generally played a much tighter game than the Dons, they bossed the early exchanges after the break and scored the all-important first try.
After Langtree had been held on the line, Hewitt stepped inside Danny Washbrook and found Emmerson Whittel on his inside and he managed to get the ball down despite the efforts of two defenders.
The Dons continued to make handling mistakes whenever they got into the Oldham half and never looked like salvaging a result when going further behind on 57 minutes.
Hooker Watson Boas, who had shown up well on occasions in the first half, fumbled a neat grubber-kick by Hewitt five metres from his own line and Crook, who also added the extras, was on hand to pick up the loose ball and score.
It left Doncaster with a mountain to climb in the last quarter, even more so when Crook made it 22-6 with a 62nd minute penalty.
They gave the score line a more respectable look with a late converted try by hooker Kyle Kesik from Brandan Wilkinson’s low inside pass.
But it was too little, too late.
Dons: Howden, Doherty, Bower, Tali, Halliday, Chase, Beharrell, Nzoungou, Kesik, Spiers, Washbrook, Mariano, Wilkinson. Subs: Boyle, Brown, Hedges, Boas.