Doncaster RLFC 24 Newcastle Thunder 28: Dons’ play-off bid to go to the wire

Hakim Miloudi. Photo: Rob Terrace
Hakim Miloudi. Photo: Rob Terrace

Doncaster RLFC’s bid for the remaining League One Super 8s play-off spot will go down the final round of games this weekend.

The Dons missed out on the chance to secure their play-off spot with a game to spare when going down 28-24 in a thrilling roller-coaster of a game against Newcastle Thunder – one of two clubs who can still pip them - at the Keepmoat Stadium.

They travel to Canada this week to face Toronto Wolfpack and must beat the league leaders, or rely on results elsewhere, to guarantee a top five finish.

The Dons took the game to Newcastle from the start and took an early lead when Pete Green touched down under the posts for a try converted by Jack Miller after getting on the end of a clever grubber kick by skipper Kyle Kesik.

Newcastle hit back on 14 minutes when Salford-bound centre Derrell Olpherts took advantage of some weak defence out wide.

The visitors quickly returned to the attack and opened up a 10-6 lead when prop Liam McAvoy beat several Doncaster defenders to scrum-half Benn Hardcastle’s astute grubber kick which the half-back converted.

Prop Russ Spiers dropped the ball over the line at the other end as the game continued to be played at a frantic pace.

Newcastle continued to cause problems with their high speed inventive play and went close to a third try on 27 minutes when lively hooker Evan Simons was held up over the line after he had exploited a gap ten metres out.

Full-back Hakim Miloudi pulled off a try-saving tackle when Newcastle threatened down the left but the visitors weren’t to be denied and powerful prop Vincent Rennie forced his way over under the post in the same set. Hardcastle again added the extras to make it 16-6

The Dons suffered a blow when second-rower Charlie Martin had to be helped off with a knee injury.

Fellow second-rower Jason Muranka threw his side a badly-needed lifeline in stoppage time when turning in the tackle on the line. Miller’s conversion cut the deficit to four points.

They struck again on the hooter, centre Jason Tali latching on to Green’s long ball to score out wide and level the scores at 16-16.

The South Yorkshire side dominated the third quarter and it was no more than they deserved when Miller kicked them into an 18-16 lead with a 52nd minute penalty.

Centre Nick Rawsthorne looked all set to score but weight of numbers prevented him grounding the ball over the line.

Newcastle regained the lead with their first real attack of the half when highly-rated full-back Lewis Young raced in from 30 metres out.

Hardcastle’s conversion gave them a four-point advantage with just over 20 minutes on the clock.

Stand-off Kieran Cross found a gap in the defence and had the pace to finish the job off to level the scores at 22-22.

Miller missed the conversion but converted a 66th minute penalty.

The lead changed hands again four minutes later with the visitors scoring what proved to be the winning try.

The Dons still had chances to win the game though their cause wasn’t helped when Miloudi was sent-off in the dying minutes.

Dons: Miloudi, Jones, Rawsthorne, Tali, Doherty, Cross, Miller, Spiers,Kesik, Paleaaesina, Martin, Muranka, Green. Subs: England, Braham, Castle, Hedges