DONCASTER kept their National League One promotion hopes alive after clearing the first hurdle of the Play-offs with a magnificent victory over fancied Whitehaven at the Keepmoat Stadium.
The Dons had been expecting a tough game after being hard pushed to beat them 20-18 in the league last month.
But the Cumbrians couldn’t live with them as the Dons produced a performance which would have beaten any side in the Division on the day.
They played as well as they have done all season with ball in hand and their defence was superb.
The Dons conceded successive penalties and found themselves under early pressure - former Doncaster favourite Andreas Bauer being held inches short in the corner in the fifth minute.
Tony Miller’s side weathered the storm and took the lead against the run of play on eight minutes.
Winger Gareth Potts - who didn’t appear to ground the ball properly - squeezed in at the corner from close range.
Scott Spaven, who controlled the game throughout, along with half-back partner Craig Fawcett, judged the wind to perfection when adding the extras.
The Dons increased their lead on 16 minutes. Hooker Mike Emmet made a superb break down the left and found winger Stuart Sanderson up in support just short of the line when his own options. appeared to have run out. Sanderson again added the extras to make it 14-0..
There was more on 21 minutes. Outstanding full-back Mick Butterfield set centre Nev Morrison on a strong run to the line and then popped up on his outside a couple of metres out to take his return pass to score out wide.
There would have been a fourth try three minutes later had Dom Dee been able to ground the ball properly after a strong charge to the line
Whitehaven hauled themselves back into the game with a close-range try by Carl Sice, converted by stand-off Lewis Palfrey. But Dons replied in style, Sanderson touching down out wide following some superb handling down the line. Spaven maintained his 100 per cent record to make it 24-6. A grubber kick by Sice hit the post but a Doncaster player dropped on the ball over the line to deny the Cumbrians a second try.
Whitehaven made the early running after the break but it was the home side who scored again, Potts racing over from close range for a 49th minute try in the corner after more crisp handling along the line.
Second-rower Grant Edwards drove over from acting half-back on 65 minutes. Spaven again added the extras.
Whitehaven’s Lee Doran weaved over for a second converted try on 69 minutes. They were in again seven minutes later but it was too little too late and their hopes of an immediate return to the Championship had been dashed.
Dons: Butterfield, Potts, Spurr, Morrison, Sanderson, Fawcett, Spaven, Scott, Emmett, Sampson, Robinson, Edwards, Carl Hughes. Subs: Carbutt, Dee, Kesik, Coady
Whitehaven: Sice, Bauer, Beattie, McAvoy, Calvert, Palfrey, Rudd, Haggerty, Smith, Hill, Miller, Doran, Gerrard. Subs: Wilton, King, Farrer, Crellin.