When these two sides met in the play-offs a fortnight ago, Doncaster took the spoils with a 20-6 away win at the Newcastle Thunder. Today the prize was much higher, a game against Oldham next weekend to determine who would be joining Whitehaven in the Betfred Championship in 2020.
Doncaster were placed behind Newcastle in the regular season, hence the need for a drive up the A1, but with games between the two sides during the regular season being close affairs, it was difficult to pick a favourite from todays clash.
Newcastle made a handful of changes, with Doncaster also making a couple of switches to their line-up. Newcastle were slight favourites with the bookies based on home advantage but Doncaster arrived determined to book themselves a trip to Oldham next weekend.
The dancing feet of Kieran Gill opened the scoring for Newcastle on five minutes as he carved through a broken Doncaster defence to score from ten metres out. Rhys Clarke added the extras from ten metres in from the touchline to make it 6-0. Storm looked determined not to allow the Dons get a repeat.
Six minutes later Keale Carlile went from dummy half with a scoot and managed to push himself onto the ground despite two Doncaster players trying to hold him up over the line. Clarke’s boot made it 12-0 for the perfect home start.
Lewis Young knocked on over the line on fifteen when he should have scored, and it took twelve minutes before the opportunity presented itself to the Thunder full-back and he stepped past the defence, went down the left hand side, and rounded under the sticks to give Clarke a simple goal for 18-0.
The Newcastle defence held firm for the remainder of the half and the home side went into the interval with a three try lead.
In a sensational start to the second half Doncaster grabbed the first try after Rangi Chase regained his grubber, offloaded out of the back door and as the ball went off a Thunder player into the goal area Chase managed to get his hand on the ball to ground. The conversion was missed but it was a great response from the visitors.
After the Doncaster try it was the Thunder who beseiged the Dons line. Gill grabbed his second just before the hour mark when he took the ball from Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e for a three metre walk in try. Clarke added the extras and Newcastle were easing their way into next weekends final.
A Clarke penalty goal on sixty-five extended the lead to 26-4 and five minutes later Alex Clegg scored a try out of nowhere thanks to two brilliant quick offloads giving his the space to score in the corner. Clarke was unable to convert from the touchline but Newcastle had the victory sealed.
Gill secured his hat-trick in the dying seconds as he ran the angle at the end of a passing move, throwing a dummy and going over to score on the dive. Clark couldn’t kick the extras but it counted for nothing.
A near faultless performance from the Newcastle Thunder exercised the ghost of a fortnight past and ensured a big win over Doncaster which sets up an all or nothing game in Oldham next weekend. The win was built on strong defence which restricted the visitors to just on try as they took their chances through a tired, and occasions broken, Doncaster line.
Next weeks game should be a belter.
Thunder: Young (T), Tualapapa, Craig, Gill (3T), Clegg (T), Laulu-Togaga’e, Newman, McAvoy, Carlile (T), Luckley, Edwards, Clarke (5G), Aldous H. Subs: Aldous J, Rowe, Simons, Fitzsimmons.
Doncaster: Howden, Doherty, Bower, Tali, Halliday, Chase (T), Beharrell, Boyle, Kesik, Nzoungou, Foster, Mariano, Wilkinson. Subs: Scott, England, Chrimes, Boas.
Referee: Jack Smith.