New head coach Richard Horne has yet to see his new charges win as the Dons suffered their second successive defeat when failing to halt Newcastle Thunder’s bandwagon on pitch 2 at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Thunder, who have proved one of the surprise packets of this season’s League One campaign, went into the game on a run of four successive wins with a first-ever top-four finish in their sights.
And they proved good value for their 20-10 win – their first in Doncaster having conceded 176 points against six on their three previous visits to the town – against a below-par home side.
The Dons were quick out of the blocks and would have opened the scoring after just three minutes had winger Sam Doherty held on to a try-scoring pass close to the line.
Kieran Cross, standing in for skipper Kyle Kesik, almost celebrated his return from a shoulder injury when going from acting half-back.
But for most of the first half it was the visitors who called the shots.
Taking advantage of the blustery wind at their backs and Doncaster’s failure to close them down quickly enough at the ruck, they mixed their tactics well and dominated the game for the next 20 minutes or so.
They opened up 10-0 lead with well-worked tries by centres Daniel Parker and Derrell Olpherts, the second converted by lively scrum-half Benn Hardcastle, who also went close following a jinking run.
Ryan Wright was held up over the line just short of the half hour.
Leading scorer Jason Tali troubled the Newcastle defence with a trademark run on 34 minutes but handling errors continued to frustrate their efforts to open their account and they fell further behind in stoppage time when Hardcastle landed a couple of late drop goals to make it 12-0 at the break.
The Dons knew they needed to raise their game after the break but fell further behind when Hardcastle converted a 44th minute penalty and Porter went close to second try two minutes later.
The try that the Dons needed to spark off a revival continued to elude them for the remainder of the third quarter –though Doherty went close on 58 minutes - with Newcastle showing few signs of relinquishing their grip on the game.
The Dons also went close early in the final quarter and Newcastle did well to deny forwards Charlie Martin and prop Connor Scott in quick succession.
Just when it was beginning to look as though the Dons would draw a blank, winger Ritchie Barnett scored in the corner and half-back Jack Miller tagged on the conversion.
But any hopes of a grandstand finish were soon dashed as Newcastle full-back Lewis Young latched on to a dropped pass just outside his own 20 and left the cover for dead when showing blistering pace to scoring a converted try to make it 20-6.
Doherty had a 75th minute try disallowed for a forward pass but the Dons did have the final say with a last-minute try by full-back Tom Carr in the corner.
Dons: Carr, Doherty, Logan, Tali, Barnett, Dean, Miller, Spiers, Cross, Scott, Martin, Downs, Green. Subs: Muranka,Thackray, Wright, Hedges.