`

North Wales Crusaders 12 Doncaster RLFC 36 – Dons break club record as they secure play-off place

Doncaster RLFC's Jason Tali
Doncaster RLFC's Jason Tali

Doncaster RLFC have effectively secured third spot in League 1 after a club record ninth successive league win in a 36-12 triumph at North Wales Crusaders.

Sunday’s results saw the Dons maintain a two point cushion in third spot with only next weekend’s home tie with Workington Town remaining ahead of the promotion play-offs.

Workington are the side trailing the Dons by two points and face the unlikely task of having to make up a 121 points difference deficit in the game.

The match will act as a warm-up for the play-offs themselves with the two sides almost certain to meet in the semi-final stage.

The Dons are heading into their double-header with Workington on sensational form after continuing their record-breaking run by sweeping aside the Crusaders.

It was not the club’s best display of the run as they missed the organisation of scrum-half Matty Beharrell and the industry of second-rower Brad England. But they were good value for the points on a tight pitch, which favoured the home side’s more direct style.

There was little to chose between the two sides in a tight opening during which Doncaster’s leading try-scorer Jason Tali and home centre Earl Hurst both went close.

The Dons, whose pre-match preparations were affected by problems on the motorway en route, broke the deadlock on 16 minutes when in-form prop Russ Spiers crashed over from close range, near enough for Jordie Hedges to convert after a 40-20 kick by full-back Richard Owen had created the position.

Owen was held just short when trying his luck from dummy half.

Crusaders, who played with a lot of spirit and no little skill at times, drew level on 21 minutes. They moved the ball along the line for debutant winger Aled Davies to touch down out wide for a try converted by full-back Tommy Johnson.

Mistakes began to creep into Doncaster’s game prior to them regaining the lead.

Jones-Bishop somehow managed to find Tali on his inside as he was being bundled into touch five metres out and the former Papua New Guinea World Cup star crashed past a couple of defenders to claim his 21st try of the season.

With scrum-half Karl Ashall continuing to direct play, Crusaders hit back strongly and both Sam Doherty and Tali did well to collect high kicks under pressure.

The Dons weathered the pressure and opened up a ten-point interval lead when speedy hooker Kieran Cross broke from acting half back and found Owen in support and he touched down for his 11th try of the season.

The Dons increased their lead six minutes after the restart when Jones-Bishop latched on to a loose ball and ran 90m to score. Hedges again added the extras.

The visitors had to wait until the 69th minute to add to their account -  Doherty finishing off some polished handling from left to right when racing in at the corner for an unconverted try.

Crusaders were not about to throw in the towel and Jack Houghton rounded off a snappy four-man move with a 73rd minute converted try to cut the deficit to 14 points.

The Dons quickly regained the initiative and Tali forced his way over from close range on 78 minutes.

Hurst, who posed problems throughout, went close at the death

Prop Ross Osbourne, who showed up well on his return to the side, was held up over the line prior to supplying the scoring pass for second-rower Charlie Martin to touch down under the posts.

Jack Sanderson completed the scoring when tagging on the conversion.

Dons: Owen. Jones-Bishop, Tali, Bower, Doherty, Howden, Hedges; Spiers, Kesik, Boyle, Martin, Mariano, Muranka. Subs: Osbourne, Cross, Scott, Sanderson.