Doncaster RLFC 10 North Wales Crusaders 12: Dons suffer surprise defeat at Keepmoat Stadium
North Wales Crusaders dealt Doncaster RLFC’s Betfred League One title hopes another setback when claiming their first ever win at the Keepmoat Stadium.
The Wrexham-based club, who hadn’t won in the league this season – though they had run several sides close – until the previous game, ran out deserved 12-10 winners in a tough physical contest.
The Dons welcomed back influential scrum-half Matty Beharrell after several weeks on the sidelines but despite his best efforts the Crusaders half-back pairing of Ben Stead and Steven Roper were more effective on the day.
Looking to bounce back from their Good Friday defeat at Keighley, the Dons made a bright start.
But it was Crusaders, for whom hooker Karl Ashall also showed up well, who took the lead on 12 minutes - centre Earl Hurst twisted his way over from close range following some snappy handling along the line.
Crusaders continued to look dangerous in possession and went close to a second try from a grubber-kick to the line.
The home side, for whom new loan signing Watson Boas showed some nice touches in both attack and defence, went close through winger Richard Owen following good work by Beharrell in the build-up.
The Dons remained on the attack during which time Beharell had a try from an Owen grubber-kick disallowed for offside as did Crusaders later in the half.
With Crusaders defending well it was going to take something special to break them down and Papua New Guinea international Boas produced it.
The full-back beat several players during a midfield break before finding centre Jason Tali with a grubber kick off the side of his right boot and his fellow PNG international touched down for a 34th minute try too far out for Beharrell to convert.
There were chances at both ends but the two sides remained locked at 4-4 at the interval.
Crusaders were the first to threaten after the restart.
Slick handling got wing Robert Massam – who had gone close in the first half - clear down the left in the Doncaster half and it was left to Boas to save the day as he did later when second-rower Jack Houghton had broken through.
Loose-forward Kenny Baker capped a hard-working display when scrambling over from close range on 50 minutes. Stead added the simple conversion to give his side a 10-4 lead no one in the ground could argue with.
Stand-off Jordan Howden raised Doncaster hopes three minutes later when scoring a superb 50m solo try. Beharrell added the extras to level the scores at 10-10 going into the final quarter.
The Dons had late chances to grab salvage a result after Crusaders had gone ahead with a 66th minute penalty but they panicked and either made a mistake or took the wrong option.
Dons: Boas, Owen, Tali, Buchanan, Chrimes, Howden, Beharrell; Boyle, Ogden, Spiers, Yere, Foster, Hedges. Subs: Scott, Douglas, Wilkinson, Kesik.