Doncaster RLFC 12 Barrow Raiders 40: Dons crash in Super 8s opener
It was always going to be a big ask to beat a team which looks to be peaking at the right time without any recognised half-backs, and so it proved.
But the Dons didn’t help their cause with some poor handling in the Barrow half or by their lack of discipline at times which led to them playing with 12 men for 20 minutes.
Raiders travelled down from Cumbria in high spirits having demolished second-place Rochdale at Craven Park and their confidence received an early boost when winger Eze Harper rewarding some slick handling when squeezing in at the corner after just three minutes.
The Dons hit back but lacking their regular play-makers, lacked the necessary guile to seriously trouble the Barrow defence.
Although defences were generally on top, the Cumbrians posed the greater cohesion when in possession.
Stand-off Chris Hankinson, whose touchline conversion had earlier come back off the post, hit the target with a much easier penalty on 17 minutes.
There was a let-off for the Dons on 23 minutes when scrum-half Jamie Dallimore bombed a try-scoring opportunity five metres out with a woeful pass.
But it only proved a stay of execution as second-rower Liam Harrison – who has proved a thorn in Doncaster’s side on more than one occasion in the past - ploughed over from close range three minutes later after Dallimore had made the initial break from inside his own half.
Hankinson added the extras this time to make it 12-0. He was also on target with an easy penalty on 33 minutes.
To add to the Dons mounting worries they had Ryan Wright – who had worked to inject some variety into their attack - sin-binned for a foul on Dallimore.
The visitors elected to kick for position from the resulting penalty and had centre Andy Litherland held on to Harrison’s pass close to the line the ploy would have paid off.
Once again, however, Raiders bounced straight back with Harper racing in for a second try, again converted by Hankinson, who also landed an injury-time penalty off the crossbar to make it 22-0.
The Dons were down to 11 men within two minutes of the restart following a foul by prop Mark Castle and Raiders wasted no time cashing in on their two-man advantage with a converted try by Litherland.
Things continued to go against the home side and prop Zac Braham was stretchered off with a leg injury after being held just short on 53 minutes.
The Dons remained on the attack and Castle forced his way over on 55 minutes for a try goaled by Tom Carr to make it 6-28.
Raiders regained the initiative and Dan Toal bagged a quick brace either side of the Dons going close.
The Dons had the last word with a superb length of the field try by David Foggin-Johnson, which capped an impressive display.
Dons: Carr; Foggin-Johnson, L Welham, Tali, Doherty;Sheriff. Kesik; Aizue, Wright, Scott, Foster, Walton, Milton. Subs: B Nicholson, Pickets-O’Donnell, Braham, Castle.
Barrow: Fieldhouse; Harper, Pitman, Litherland, Fleming; Hankinson,Dalimore; Bullock, Ashall, Wilkes, Harrison, Morrow, Bate. Subs: Mossop, Toal, Holmes, Brennan.