London Broncos 26 Doncaster RLFC 22: Great rally just fails to save Dons

Lee Waterman was among the Dons' try scorers. Photo:   Malcolm Billingham
Lee Waterman was among the Dons' try scorers. Photo: Malcolm Billingham

Doncaster finished empty-handed in their opening Championship game of the season against London Broncos at The Hive.

But player-coach Paul Cooke will take some consolation from a dominant second half display during which they came close to snatching a remarkable victory.

Relegated Broncos, who have remained a full-time club to give themselves the best chance of bouncing straight back into Super League, looked to be coasting to victory with a 20-0 lead.

Even more so when adding a fifth try just after the break, but the Dons hit back with four unanswered tries to close the gap to 26-22 and the Londoners were mightily relieved to hear the final whistle.

With hooker Kyle Kesik joining scrum-half Richard Wilkinson on the sidelines after failing to shake off a groin strain, Dons gave a debut to hooker Stuart Howarth.

He was one of three Hull FC dual-registered players on debut – Australian Jordan Rankin coming in at half-back and former New Zealand international prop Lefata Paleaaesina packing down in the front-row. Not surprisingly, it took the Dons time to find their feet – their cause not being helped by the fact that the new-look Broncos led 14-0 after scoring three tries in as many minutes.

When centre Wes Naiqama, who also tagged on the conversion, touched down on 22 minutes it looked as though Broncos would inflict a massive defeat on the Dons, who went close to a try on a couple of occasions, began to come more into the game in the last ten minutes of the half to raise hopes of a comeback.

But when Broncos struck again early in the second half to lead 26-0 it seemed but a damage-limitation exercise.

But Paleaaesina started the revival when barging his way over from close range near enough for Stu Sanderson to convert.

The Cumbrian also added the extras when Sam Doherty went over for his first league try for the club. Strong-running utility man Lee Waterman raced through a gap for a third converted try and the alarm bells started to ring for Broncos. That was even more the case when Doherty claimed his second - but Broncos held on.

Dons: Scott, Doherty, Cowling,Welham, Sanderson, Cooke, Rankin, Howarth, Paleaaesina, Snitch, Dunn, Emmett, Rep: Spiers, Clarke, Robinson, Waterman.