Whitehaven 25 Doncaster RLFC 20: Late fightback in vain as Dons beaten in Richard Horne’s first game in charge

Tom Carr
Tom Carr

Doncaster RLFC suffered their first League One defeat in more than two months as Whitehaven reclaimed second spot with a thrilling 25-20 win at the Recreation Ground.

Unbeaten in the league since the second week of the campaign, the Cumbrians had looked to be coasting to victory when leading 25-6 at the end of the third quarter but the Dons hit back with three unanswered tries to set-up a grandstand finish.

The Dons welcomed back full-back Tom Carr after a broken foot and prop Feka Paleaaesina following more than a month on the sidelines with an Achilles tendon problem.

But were forced to make several changes in the backs with 21-year-old Hull FC centre Jack Logan starting his first league game in a year following major knee surgery.

With second-rower Brad England suspended, another Hull FC prospect, Jack Downs, also made his Doncaster debut as part of the dual-registration arrangement.

The Cumbrians drew first blood on ten minutes, prop Tommy Holland rewarding earlier pressure with a close-range try converted by half-back Paul Crook.

Looking to extend their unbeaten run to six games, the Dons hit back strongly but were let down by handling mistakes prior to Crook making it 8-0 with a 24th-minute penalty.

The Cumbrians extended their lead three minutes later when full-back Jordan Burns, who had joined the line touched down near enough for Crook to add the extras.

Needing to score next, the Dons did just that, winger Louis Sheriff touching down in the corner six minutes before the break after good work by Paleaaesina in the build-up.

Scrum-half Jack Miller, who retained the kicking role despite Carr’s return, added the touchline conversion to cut the deficit to eight points.

The home side, were reduced to 12 men just before the break when centre Chris Taylor was sin-binned.

But the Dons failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage and found themselves trailing 21-6 after 50 minutes due to a 48th-minute drop-goal and a scrappy second converted try by Burns under a minute later.

Hopes of only the Dons third win over the Cumbrians in nine games suffered another blow at the end of the third quarter when centre Jesse Joe Parker touched down for an unconverted try to open up a 19-point lead.

Just when it was begining to look like a damage-limitation exercise, the Dons hit back with a quick brace of tries by Logan, in only his second start since last June, the first of which was converted by Miller.

Connor Scott and Ryan Wright set up the first one on 63 minutes with stand-off Reece Dean supplying the scoring pass for the second three minutes later.

The Dons continued to make the running and Sheriff stunned the home fans with a third try in seven minutes. Miller again failed to convert leaving his side five points adrift.

But that was as close as it got for the Dons who returned home from West Cumbria empty-handed though not licking their wounds as so often in the past.

Dons: Carr, Sheriff, Logan, Tali, Barnett, Dean, Miller, Spiers, Kesik, Scott, Martin, Downs, Green. Subs. Paleaaesina, Muranka, Thackray, Wright.