DONCASTER threw down the gauntlet to the rest of Championship One on the opening day of the league season with a eight-try demolition of fancied Whitehaven at the Keepmoat Stadium.
The Dons laid the foundations for their victory with a stunning first half display of attacking rugby which saw them lead the shell-shocked Cumbrians 30-6.
The Dons put some mixed performances in the Northern Rail Cup games behind them as they hit their best form of the season with former Super League star Paul Cooke setting a tremendous lead behind a dominant pack.
The Dons made the early running and centre Lee Waterman, whose midfield break had created the position, would have scored a third-minute try had he not knocked on whilst trying to get on the end of stand-off Paul Cooke’s grubber kick over the line.
The Cumbrians hit back strongly but the Doncaster defence held firm.
The Dons took the lead on six minutes when skipper Craig Robinson broke down the left and found stand-off Paul Cooke on his inside and he raced 40 metres for a try he also goaled.
Winger Dean Colton touched down in the corner on 12 minutes from a kick but was ruled offside.
Whitehaven drew level on 16 minutes when loose-forward Brad Crellin dived on the loose ball over for the line, for a try converted by stand-off Carl Rudd, after Dons full-back Mick Butterfield had failed to clear the danger from a high kick.
The Dons regained the lead on 20 minutes. Cooke did well to squeeze the ball out of the tackle close to the line to hooker Mike Emmett and his quick transfer saw Waterman dive over in the corner. Cooke made it 12-6 when landing the touchline conversion.
There was more joy for Doncaster fans three minutes later when Whitehaven fumbled a kick to their left flank and scrum-half Kieran Hyde raced in from 20 metres out to celebrate his home debut with a try. Cooke again tagged on the extras to give his side a 12 point lead.
The game continued to be surprisingly one-sided and it came as no surprise when the Dons added to their lead on 31 minutes - hooker Kyle Kesik driving over from acting half-back for a try goaled by Cooke.
Whitehaven were repeatedly being forced on the back foot by Doncaster’s enterprising attacking play, and they fell further behind just before the break Tom Hodson racing in for another converted try from Cooke’s angled kick.
Whitehaven drew first blood after the restart, former Dons’ star Andreas Bauer just beating Butterfield to a kick to the corner for a try goaled by Rudd.
But the Cumbrians were never allowed to get on a roll and centre Liam Cunningham took advantage of some poor defence to touch down for a sixth converted try on 51 minutes.
With the Dons having lost three players through injury since the interval, it wasn’t surprising that they had lost some of their earlier dominance and the Cumbrians hit back through Rudd, who crossed for their third try on 64 minutes.
Once again, though, the Dons were the next to score, Cooke capping by far his best game for the club by side-stepping his way over from close range for a 71st minute try he also converted.
Waterman rounded off an excellent Doncaster performance with a 79 minute minute try, again goaled by Cooke to take his tally to 24 points.
Dons: Butterfield, Colton, Cunningham. Waterman, Hodson, Cooke, Hyde, Castle, Emmett. Robinson. O’Loughlin, Lawton, Edwards. Kesik, Bibb, Hughes, Welsh.
Whitehaven: Ackerley, Bauer, Wiper, Fox, Wilson, Rudd, Karalius, Houghton, Smith, Varkulis, Isakka, Beattie, Crellin. Subs: Sice. Bewsher, Cullnean, Haggerty.
Referee: C Leatherbarrow.