Doncaster RLFC 26 Coventry Bears 4: Dons make flying start to League One campaign

Photo: Rob TerracePhoto: Rob Terrace
Photo: Rob Terrace
Doncaster RLFC got their League One campaign off to a flying start with a 26-4 win over Coventry Bears at a wet Keepmoat Stadium.

The Dons, who are expected to be one of the teams challenging for promotion, blew hot and cold at times in conditions which probably suited Coventry’s more direct style.

Bears aren’t expected to be pushing for a place in the top-eight play-offs - and yesterday’s game did little to suggest that will be the case.

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But they will be a match up front for a lot of sides as the Doncaster forwards will no doubt testify.

But even taking into account the modest, if spirited, opposition there were encouraging signs and there is clearly much more to come once the weather improves and players become more familiar with each other.

Given the wet and greasy conditions, the Dons could have been excused had they kept it tight and based their game around their powerful pack.

But that is not in head coach Gary Thornton’s DNA and he likes his teams to entertain whenever possible and they certainly did that early on before handling mistakes started to creep into their game as the ball became more slippery.

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It was all Doncaster in the opening exchanges and after full-back Tom Carr had been nailed inches short early on, the home side took the lead on nine minutes when scrum-half Jack Miller touched down from his own grubber kick and Carr added the extras.

There would have been a second try on 12 minutes, after prop Mark Castle - who often run hard and straight - had been held just short had loose-forward Jason Muranka held on to the ball over the line.

It merely proved a stay of execution for Bears, however, with winger Richie Barnett doing well to squeeze over in the corner from a kick by Howden. Carr added the extras from touch to make it 12-0.

The Dons lost some of their earlier attacking edge in the second quarter as Bears came more into the game – though Miller had a chance just before the break.

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Bears showed their teeth in the opening minutes of the second half with winger Jamahl Hunte touching down for an unconverted try in the corner to make it 12-4.

Kieran Cross helped to knock some of the wind out of Bears’ sails with a close-range try, again converted by Carr, on 52 minutes.

Centre Jason Tali cashed in on a defensive error on the line when scoring from a kick just before the hour. Carr’s conversion made it 24-4.

If the home side expected the floodgates to open in the final quarter they were to be disappointed for Bears more than held their own.

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But the result was never in doubt and the Dons got the result they wanted and will be looking to make the Keepmoat a fortress for the rest of the season.

Dons: Carr, Sheriff, Doherty, Tali, Barnett, Howden, Miller; Castle, Kesik, Scott, Martin, Welham, Muranka. Subs: Cross, Paleaaesina, Spiers, Thackray.

Coventry: Roper, Freeman, Bass, Medforth, Hunte, Prior, O’Mara; Guertjens, Gaylor, Aldred, Reid, Barratt, Sharratt. Subs: Russell, Glover, Beddows, Johnson.