FORMER Super League star Paul Cooke played 50 minutes on his debut as the Dons romped to a comprehensive win in their opening Northern Rail Cup game.
The Dons led by 18 points at half-time, Lee Waterman failing to convert four of the five tries, and five more were added for good measure after the break.
If Waterman was unconvincing with the boot, he made up for it with some quality finishing as he helped himself to four tries.
The centre converted his own try after six minutes after Gateshead, Championship One whipping boys for the past two years, had opened brightly. Mick Butterfield broke the line for the game’s opener and quick hands brought a second for Stewart Sanderson.
The Dons were getting plenty of joy out wide, particularly on the right, and Sanderson put Waterman over in the corner.
Cooke got in on the act when his crossfield kick saw Doncaster with two players over, centre Liam Cunningham applying the finishing touch.
The Dons were dominating with good line speed but it was Thunder who had the final say of the opening half.
Captain Jason Payne crashed over but it was only a brief respite for the Tyneside outfit as the Dons scored 16 points in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.
Tom Hodgson exploited weak defence to dart over in the corner and then Carl Hughes put Butterfield over the whitewash.
The Gateshead defence failed to lay a finger on Waterman as the centre completed his hat-trick to open up a 34 point lead.
It was plain sailing for Doncaster in front of a sparse crowd on Tyneside, the original game having been frozen out on Sunday.
Thunder briefly responded through debutant prop Brett Waller but the Dons remained in charge, Cooke now in the dug out.
Cooke had made a steady rather than spectacular debut and there will be much stiffer tests to come for the stand off and Doncaster in the months to come.
Keswick broke the line 20 metres out for Doncaster’s ninth touchdown of the night on the hour, the game then fizzling out in the latter stages.
Waterman, however, was able to grab his fourth try of the night when he took Dean O’Loughlin’s high pass to cross nine minutes from time.
DONCASTER: Butterfield, Sanderson, Cunningham, Waterman, Hodgson, Cooke, Fawcett, Robinson, Keswick, Castle, O’Loughlin, Kelly, Edwards. Subs: Powley, Hughes, Bibb, Sampson
REFEREE: Joe Cobb
Centre Keith Lulia is poised to make his Bradford debut against Wigan on Sunday after fellow newcomer Adrian Purtell was ruled out for six weeks. Purtell tore his pectoral muscle in last Sunday’s 20-12 win at Castleford.