Preview: Doncaster RLFC v Halifax

Paul Cooke
Paul Cooke

The Dons will be looking to avenge their biggest Championship defeat of the season when they entertain Halifax on Sunday.

Paul Cooke’s side finished well beaten when going down 48-6 against their top-four rivals at The Shay in late March.

Although Cooke readily concedes that Halifax were the better side on the day, he also argues that injuries played a big part in the size of the defeat.

“We lost Mike Kelly after just two minutes and Danny Nicklas (who hasn’t played since) after 20 minutes, and Mark Castle five minutes later.

“We had to regroup and change our tactics and it didn’t help having only one forward sub for the last 55 minutes on what was a hot day,” he said.

“On top of that it was probably the best they have played all season.”

Halifax arrive at the Keepmoat knowing that they need to win both their remaining games to retain any hope of pipping Fearherstone Rovers for second spot.

The West Yorkshire side slipped to third after losing 20-4 against Rovers at The Shay in their last match - dubbed the ‘£250,000 game’ because of the difference in prize money between second and third place.

“I was surprised by the result,” said Cooke.

“Halifax had overtaken Featherstone in the league the week before and I thought that they’d cement second spot.

“Obviously they are still fighting for it but the defeat will make it more difficult for them being two points behind with only two games left.

“But I know coach Karl Harrison and his players will want to put that Featherstone defeat behind them and they’ll certainly be coming here full of confidence without a shadow of doubt.

“They are certainly a very strong side and they have a lot of good strike players.

”They are one of those teams who will punish you if you don’t turn up on the day and play well.

“But being at home we’ll certainly be looking to put one over them because we obviously want to cement our place in the top four.”

Despite Halifax putting nearly 50 points past them in their last meeting, Cooke says that there has been no talk of revenge among the squad, who could be boosted by the return of several injured players.

“There’s been no talk of ‘owing them one’ - it’s all being about ourselves,” said the stand-off.

“We know we’ve got to win our last two games to be certain of finishing fourth.”