Dons march on in promotion bid but it’s no cake walk against whipping boys

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DONCASTER picked up their sixth successive win to maintain their Championship One promotion One bid.

But they were made to work far harder for their victory over the struggling North-east club at the Keepmoat Stadium than they probably expected.

Some Doncaster fans, as does coach Tony Miller, probably felt some sympathy for Gateshead. They will remember how it felt in the days when the Dons were the whipping boys of the rugby league.

But there is no room for sympathy in sport during a game and the Dons, though not at their best, did a professional job.

Thunder had run the Dons closer than expected when the two teams met at Gateshead last month, and they started the game in spirited fashion for a side which had conceded 92 points at Keighley a week earlier, and edged the early territorial exchanges.

Neither side looked like scoring until Dons centre Chris Spurr, the hat-trick hero of the splendid win at Rochdale last time out, was held on his back over the line in the 17th minute after stand-off Scott Spaven had created the position with a midfield break.

The Dons remained on the attack and loose-forward Grant Edwards forced his way over from close range in the corner for a 19th minute try, converted by Spaven.

If the Dons had expected the floodgates to open they were to be disappointed and they had to wait another ten minutes to add to their account - skipper Matt Carbutt sending Spurr racing in on an arced run from 20 metres out.

Hooker Kyle Kesik, playing out of position at scrum-half due to the club’s failure to bring in player on loan to cover for the injured Craig Fawcett, added a third try three minutes later when getting a touch to a loose ball over the line.

Spaven again added the extras to make it 18-0 at the break.

Gateshead made a spirited start to the second half and came within a couple of feet of opening their account on 44 minutes.

But it was the Dons who again drew first blood.

Spurr took the ball in strongly before off-loading to the supporting Carl Hughes close to the line and the back-rower touched down for his second try in as many games. Spaven again tagged on the conversion to make it 24-0.

Thunder continued to show plenty of enthusiasm but they fell further behind on 57 minutes when Kesik scrambled over for his second try of the game.

Spaven missed his first kick of the game leaving the score standing at 28-0.

Prop Liam Crawley dropped the ball as he tried to drive over on 68 minutes.

The home fans didn’t have to wait long for a sixth try, however. Spurr left the cover for dead after breaking through at pace from 30 metres out.

n Dons: Butterfield, Coady, Morrison, Spurr, Sanderson, Spaven, Kesik, Bovill, Ely, Crawley, Scott, Carbutt, Edwards. Subs: Emmett, Hughes, Dee, Sampson.

n Gateshead: Peers, Wilson, Mitchell, Brown, Shields, Bate, Condron, Payne, Hodgson, Welton, Kelly, Cash, Stoker. Subs: Clarke, Smith, Parker, Harding.

Referee: M Kidd