Rochdale Hornets 6 Doncaster 38
PROMOTION-chasing Doncaster climbed into top spot in Championship One after dishing out a seven-try beating to fifth-placed Rochdale Hornets at windswept Spotland.
It was the Dons sixth win in seven starts and easily their best as they threw down the gauntlet to their rivals.
With veteran centre Chris Spur, who proved a real handful for the Rochdale defence on the Dons’ last visit to Spotland, forced to sit the game out after suffering a calf injury in training, new dual-registered signing from Super League Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, Dan Cowling, made his debut for Tony Miller’s side.
The Dons, who had spent most of the game until then in their own half, took the lead against the run of play on 12 minutes.
Stand-off Paul Cooke jinked past a couple of defenders 35 yards out before putting in a weak grubber kick which, due to a catalogue of errors, the home side failed to clear and second-rower Mike Kelly threw himself on the loose ball over the line for a try converted by winger Tom Hodson.
Hornets hit back strongly and the visitors had to dig deep to deny them a score during a spell of sustained forward pressure.
Although not a day for expansive rugby, the Dons were trying to move the ball and keep the movement alive more than Rochdale at this stage.
Scrum-half Craig Fawcett almost jinked his way over on 28 minutes before Cooke took the wrong option wide on the left when choosing to put a grubber kick in, collected by a defender, despite his side having an overlap.
Cooke rounded off a spell of Doncaster pressure when charging past a couple or defenders from 10 metres out to score an unconverted 32nd try to make it 10-0.
The Dons continued to do the basics better that Hornets and they were in again on 36 minutes, Cooke putting Kelly over from close range. Hodson added the extras to give his side an impressive 16-0 lead.
It took a try-saving cover tackle to deny free-scoring centre Lee Waterman a try after he had broke clear down the left.
But Dons’ boss Miller will have more than happy to go in with such an impressive interval lead having played against the wind.
Hornets started the second half in determined fashion but once again the Doncaster defence held firm.
But for a try-saving interception by centre Danny Davies, from Waterman’s pass, Hodson would have raced in for the Dons’ fourth try.
Hornets closed the gap to 16-6 on 47 minutes with a close-range try by Chris Baines, goaled by Paul Crook.
The home side, who were giving the ball more air than earlier, continued to play with more fire - though Dons’ winger Dean Colton just missed out on a try in the corner.
There was a let-off for the Dons shortly after when Rochdale hooker Phil Wood spilt Crook’s try-scoring pass ten metres out.
The Dons rode their luck and Waterman touched down for a 61st minute try from Cooke’s grubber. Waterman was over again four minutes later, this time from Kyle Kesik’s kick. Hodson added the extras to make it 26-6.
Kesik touched down from Jack Ely’s kick with Hodson again converting. Fawcett showed the Rochdale defence a clear pair of heels when racing in for another converted try.
Rochdale: O’Connor, Stewart, Gorton, Davies, Bloomfield, Crook, Hough, Newton, Wood, Cookson, Hobson, Bannister, Donaghue. McDermott, Baines, Bowman, Braddish.
Dons: Butterfield, Colton, Cowling, Waterman, Hodson, Cooke, Fawcett, Castle, Kesik, O’Loughlin, Lawton, Kelly, Edwards: Subs: Powley, Sanderson, Welsh, Ely.
Referee: G Hewer
Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston says his players are determined to bounce back after the disappointment of their exit from the Challenge Cup, beaten 68-8 at Catalan Dragons
The Eagles were hit for 12 tries in the fifth round game in the south-east of France.
Aston will switch the focus back to the league and the Eagles home game with Leigh next weekend. He said: “It’ll be a tough one but there’s nothing better than bouncing back against a good team. Leigh is the challenge we need.”