Doncaster RLFC blown away by lowly Midlands Hurricanes in shock defeat

Doncaster RLFC’s Betfred League One title hopes look to have been blown away by lowly Midlands Hurricanes who became the first side to lower their colours this season at the Eco-Power Stadium.
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The Hurricanes took full revenge for a 56-24 defeat at the Alexander Stadium earlier in the season when posting a remarkable 41-10 win to claim their first ever victory over the Dons.

Unlike their defeat at top-four rivals Hunslet last time out, the Dons weren’t lacking any key players. Indeed, head coach Richard Horne had a full-strength squad at his disposal.

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But for whatever reason the Dons never got of first gear in their first home game for nearly two months and served up little of the free-flowing rugby they have consistently produced at home this season in the wet conditions.

Greg Burns tires to get Dons on the front foot.Greg Burns tires to get Dons on the front foot.
Greg Burns tires to get Dons on the front foot.

Hurricanes’ victory was even more remarkable considering they had lost to second-bottom Cornwall the previous week – though they fielded a much-changed side boosted by several dual-registered players.

But it was no more than they deserved and the Dons can have no complaints about the size of the defeat and it was they who looked more like a top-three side.

Hurricanes have tended to blow themselves out in the second half of some games this season after being in front at half-time or in contention.

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But the Dons never looked like making inroads into their 19-6 interval lead and it wasn’t until the dying seconds that on-loan winger Olly Butterworth celebrated his debut with a try.

Their only other score, on a day when they created little by way of chances, came after the visitors had opened up an early 6-0 lead.

Skipper Sam Smeaton, back in his favoured second-row spot in a Doncaster side which showed six changes to their back division, levelled the scoring with a trademark try which scrum-half Connor Robinson.

The visitors hit back strongly and went close on both flanks before former Dons’ favourite Liam Welham touched down for a 15th minute converted try from a clever grubber kick by lively stand-off Jacob Hookem.

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Hurricanes continued to defend their line well and would have regained the lead when returning to the attack on 28 minutes had Liam Welham not put down Hookem’s try-scoring pass five metres out.

It only proved a stay of execution, however, with the former Dons’ favourite crossing for a close-range try again goaled by Hookem.

Hurricanes continued to produce the sort of form which saw them run unbeaten leaders Dewsbury close earlier in the month, and opened up a 19-6 interval lead with a third converted try and a drop goal on the last play of the half.

The situation became even worse for the Dons, who brought on Watson Boas at hooker, when Hurricanes crossed for a fourth converted try from a scrum following a handling mistake five metres out within a couple of minutes of the restart.

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Hookem added to the Dons’ woes at the start of the last quarter when converting a penalty after being fouled. He also hit the target on 67 minutes after Brett Ferres was sent-off for a swinging arm.

The visitors capitalised on their extra man with full-back Todd Horner twice splitting the Doncaster defence wide open down the middle to create tries to open up a 41-6 lead.

Butterworth went over for a try but it was much too little, much too late.

Dons: Hall, Sanderson, Hey, Tali, Butterworth, Johnston, Robinson, Cooper, Burns, Foster, Smeaton, Ferres, McConnell. Subs: James, Knowles, Taulapapa, Boas.