Newcastle Thunder 34 Doncaster RLFC 4: Dons' promotion hopes crushed with play-off defeat
It proved a case of third time unlucky for Doncaster RLFC as they were condemned to another season in Betfred League One by Newcastle Thunder.
Beaten twice by the Dons at Kingston Park, the home side booked their place in Sunday’s final against Oldham with an impressive 34-4 win.
Thunder were better in every aspect of the game scoring six tries and restricting the Dons to just one and even that had an element of luck about it.
The Dons produced arguably their best defensive display of the season when beating Thunder 20-6 in the first week of the play-offs, on the same ground a fortnight ago.
Thunder did likewise in a game that the Dons had been confident of winning.
As such the Dons struggled to get any momentum for long periods of the game and the lack of any good ruck speed made it hard for play-makers Matty Beharell and Rangi Chase- though both tried hard - to impose their authority on the game.
Handling errors and a string of penalties also contributed to their downfall.
But it was their defensive failings, which made a mockery of their defensive record during the regular season, which ultimately proved crucial.
Well though Thunder played with the ball, in wet conditions not conducive to running rugby, they must have been surprised at how easily they opened up the Doncaster defence on occasions.
Both sides went into the game looking to get off to a fast start and Thunder, who had earlier gone close on the other flank, did just.
Full-back Lewis Young, who posed problems throughout for the Dons as did veteran half-back Quentin Laulu Togagae, had a hand in the build-up to the opening try scored by centre Kieran Gill, who cut inside and then forced his way over the line.
Hooker Keal Carlile then forced his way over from acting half-back close to the line before Young, who the Dons had managed to keep quiet in their previous meeting, cut inside past several players to claim a third converted try to give his side an 18-0 interval lead.
The Dons had only created the odd chance in the first half but looked to have got back into the game within a couple of minutes of the restart with a try by Chase.
What looked no more than a hopeful high kick by the half-back on the last tackle – a part of the game the Dons were often found wanting – turned into a half chance following a favourable bounce and the former England star just managed to get a touch to a ball which Newcastle’s Nick Newman must have thought he had palmed dead from Watson Boas’ one-handed off-load.
The try should have served to inject more confidence into the Dons but that was as good as it got and Newcastle quickly regained the initiative with Gill going on to complete his hat-trick.
Dons: Howden, Doherty, Bower, Tali, Chrimes, Chase, Beharell; Nzoungou, Kesik, Boyle, Foster, Mariano, Wilkinson. Subs: Scott, England, Boas, Halliday.