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Thornton returns to haunt Dons as Hawks soar – Doncaster RLFC 16 Hunslet 35

Frankie Mariano is tackled. Picture: Dean Atkins
Frankie Mariano is tackled. Picture: Dean Atkins

It proved to be a winning return to the Keepmoat Stadium for former Doncaster RLFC head coach Gary Thornton.

Thornton took over at Hunslet Hawks shortly after being axed by the Dons midway through last season, and his players did him proud when inflicting a 35-16 Betfred League One defeat on the third-placed home side.

Ironically in a week when the Dons sold influential scrum-half Liam Harris to Hull FC it was the dominance of the Hunslet half-backs Cain Southernwood and Joe Sanderson who helped lay the foundations for their win.

Without Harris and dual-registered Hull FC back Hakim Mloudi, the Dons lacked real quality for most of the game and can have no complaints.

The Dons drew first blood when winger Sam Doherty out-jumped his opposite number to collect a kick to the corner by stand-off Jordan Howden in the fifth minute.

But they failed to build on their promising start as mistakes crept into their game and Hunslet enjoyed the better of the first quarter.

Despite having full-back James Walton sin-binned for a foul in the tackle, Hunslet continued to look the better side.

But for loose-forward Brad Foster electing to go for glory himself in a two-on-one situation ten metres out they would have taken a deserved lead on 16 minutes.

They went close on their left-hand flank following some more snappy handling before their pressure finally paid off when Southernwood crossed from close range in the 19th minute close enough for Sanderson to convert and put his side 6-4 in front.

The Dons regained the lead on 24 minutes when dual-registered prop Ross Osbourne charged over from close range and Jack Miller added the extras to make it 10-6.

Hunslet opened up12-10 lead on 33 minutes when forward Jack Walton, one of several former Doncaster players in their side, touched down from close range for a converted try after Jack Coventry had broken the line inside the Doncaster 20.

Sanderson extended Hunslet’s lead to four points with a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

The Dons started the second half as they had started the first with hooker Kyle Kesik going over from close range to level the scores. Miller’s conversion gave his side a two-point advantage.

Hunslet hit back and centre Nathan Chappell showed good pace down the right on 35m run to the line. Sanderson added the extras from touch and also kicked a long-range penalty on the hour to make it 22-16.

But for a forward pass by James Walton, who posed problems throughout for the home side when linking up in attack, centre Mufaro Mvududu’s try would have stood.

It merely proved a stay of execution, however, with Sanderson racing over for another converted try on 66 minutes.

Southernwood rubbed salt into the Dons wounds with a long-range drop goal on 65 minutes. Second-rower Duane Straugheir extended Hunslet’s lead with another converted try on 73 minutes.

Dons: Owen, Doherty, Bower, Tali, Sanderson, Howden, Miller; Scott, Kesik, Boyle, Martin, Mariano, Downs. Subs: Osbourne, Spiers, Hedges, Wilkinson.