Doncaster RLFC made a winning debut in the iPro Cup beating holders North Wales Crusaders 35-28 in thrilling first round tie at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Although both coaches will understandably be unhappy with some of their team’s defensive qualities, that shouldn’t detract from the quality of attacking rugby on show in a thoroughly entertaining encounter.
Certainly on the evidence of this game, both sides are going to be among the League One title challengers.
Crusaders drew first blood on four minutes, winger Scott Turner out-jumping the Doncaster defence just short of the line to collect a neat chip over the top.
Full-back Tommy Johnson added the touchline conversion to make it 6-0.
The Dons hit back with scrum-half Jordie Hedges sending centre Liam Welham, who scored one of the tries when the two sides last met at the Keepmoat two seasons ago, over for an unconverted try on nine minutes. Crusaders were clearly not going to relinquish their grip on the trophy without a fight and hit back strongly only to fall behind on 18 minutes when Hull FC prospect Jordan Abdull brushed off a defender 15 metres out on his way to the corner.
The Welsh side again hit back strongly and Turner jinked past a couple of denders close the line, to touch down for a second try on 24 minutes to secure his side a 10-8 lead.
The lead changed hands again three minutes later . Hedges, who was my man-of-the-match, capitalisedfrom a knockdown from an Abdull off-load – when bravely going for the line.
Crusaders continued to pose problems and Turner completed his hat-trick on the half-hour.
Johnson’s touchline conversion edged Crusaders into the lead but it only lasted a couple of minutes – wing David Foggin-Johnson touching down out wide from a long pass by Abdull.
No sooner had the cheering died down than wing Rob Masson, who scored four tries in Crusaders’ 40-12 Challenge Cup win at Wrexham last season, touched down out wide after some slick handling along the line.
Johnson’s touchline kick was wide but he made amends with a last minute penalty to secure his side a 22-18 lead at the end of a hugely entertaining first half.
The home side regained the lead on 49 minutes, Hedges converting his own try.
The Dons crossed again a couple of minutes later, hooker Kieran Cross touching down under the posts after good work by Hull’s Iafeta Paleaaesina and full-back Louis Sheriff in a move started deep in their own half.
Hedges again tagged on the extras to make it 30-22.
Crusaders giant prop Ryan Duffy forced his way over for a 61st minute try to reduce the deficit to just two points.
Hedges popped over a 66th minute drop goal to make it 31-28.
But with Crusaders showing no signs of giving up the fight, the game remained in the balance until Foggin-Johnson raced in at the corner two minutes from time.
Dons: Sheriff; M Welham, L Welham, Yeaman, Foggin-Johnson; Abdull, Hedges; Scott, Kesik, Braham, Tonks, Foster, Milton. Cross, Nicholson, Aizue, Paleaaesina.