There were plenty of positive signs for Doncaster RLFC in Sunday's first pre-season fixture against London Broncos at a wintry Keepmoat Stadium.
Reflecting on the 22-16 defeat, head coach Richard Horne told the Free Press: “Obviously it would have been even better had we won but to hold a side which finished in the top four of the Championship last season (and caused problems for some Super League sides in the Middle 8s) to six points is still a good outcome.
“It was a competitive game and you could see that both teams wanted a good result.
“Our first half display was everything we’d spoken about. We mainly focused on the ruck area and I thought that we were really dominant against a very good team and that was really pleasing.
“Half time probably didn’t help us and we stiffened up a little bit and probably our contact wasn’t where it was in the first half at times in the second.
“We let them get quick rucks and I was a bit disappointed to concede two soft tries from our point of view.
“We probably lacked a little composure at times when we got into good attacking positions but some of that was due to the fact that we were playing our first game and blowing away the cobwebs.
“We also probably haven’t come across line speed (in defence) like that in a league match for the last couple of years and that probably spooked us a little bit.
“We also had new combinations, including half-back, and chopping and changing the team (during a game) never helps when it comes to getting any flow.
“It has helped that we are based at Castle Park and you can certainly get more things done because of the lights and the size of the field because you can work more on your systems and do some edge work whereas as Cantley Park during the winter months you are more limited due to the size of the floodlit area.
“Being able to work on handling skills in training this time of the year is important because I want us to move the ball about this season.
“It wasn’t ideal conditions to do that on Sunday, but we did try. At times it was a bit like ‘what are you doing?’ but I can’t fault them for doing it.”
“We've obviously still got things to work on in both attack and defence and we'll be looking for improvements against another strong Championship side in Batley Bulldogs at the athletics stadium on Sunday.”
Despite being up against a full-time side Horne felt the Dons lasted the pace well.
“Our fitness levels were good and some of our boys are probably in their best shape for the last couple of years,” he said.
The former Hull and Great Britain star, who took over in mid-season last year, felt his charges will have learned more from playing a strong Broncos side rather than young Super League sides as in recent seasons.
“They are a great outfit and, as I say, our boys held their own and that’s all you can ask when you are playing against stronger opposition.
“I thought our game management was really good, especially in that first 40, and our discipline was also good in terms of penalties.”