Doncaster RLFC did both themselves and League One proud in their 26-16 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup fifth round defeat against Featherstone Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium.
The table-topping Dons took the high-flying Championship side almost down to the wire after rising to challenge after conceding two early tries.
“We knew that they would come hard and fast at the start and they probably wanted to wrap the game up in the first 20 minutes or so,” said head coach Richard Horne.
“We couldn’t handle their ruck speed early on.
“But we got back into the game and started to hurt them and we knew we could do that.
“We knew that there would be a drop off in intensity at some stage during the half and we had planned all week to try and exploit that and we did and scored three well-taken tries and we came in leading 14-10.
“We knew that it would be tough but we certainly felt that we could win the game during the break.
“I think the turning point came when we had Jordan Howden, who thought he had scored from his kick, sin-binned for dissent.
“Although Jack Miller extended our lead to 16-10 they scored a converted try to level while he was off.
“We had to reorganise when we lost full-back Jack Sanderson and they scored again shortly after to lead 20-16.
“We still had a couple of chances but our earlier defensive efforts, and the fact that several players who came in haven’t played much rugby recently, started to take it’s toll in the last ten minutes or so.
“It was always going to be a big ask to score the two tries we needed to win the game after they got ten points clear.”
The Dons were without a handful of regulars this season but Horne didn’t look to make excuses.
“Featherstone are a class act so you can’t say what might have happened had they played,” he said.
“It might have had the opposite effect.
“I’ve got no complaints with how we played. The players all worked hard for each other – particularly in defence - and gave themselves the opportunity to win the game but unfortunately we couldn’t quite do it.”