25 Sep 2022
Clinical Doncaster end Hornets’ promotion hopes
Rochdale Hornets’ 2022 campaign came to an end after a 52-20 defeat to an impressive Doncaster side, in the Preliminary Final.
After a closely fought first half, The Dons turned on the style in the second 40, running in seven tries, to record a thoroughly deserved victory at the Eco-Power Stadium.
Richard Horne’s side led from early on in in the contest with Robbie Storey getting the game’s first try after nine minutes, courtesy of a powerful close-range finish.
In what was a cagey opening to the contest, with both sides struggling to complete sets, there was to no be further score until the 29-minute mark.
On this occasion it was the visitors who crossed the whitewash, with Dan Nixon diving over in the left-hand corner after The Dons had been penalised for an illegal ball steal on their own line.
But, Doncaster would hit right back after Jason Tali supported a fine Connor Robinson break to dive over and record his 100th score for the club.
Robinson would then add the extras to give the South Yorkshire outfit an eight-point lead at the break.
Despite struggling to get going in the first half, Hornets were still very much in the contest at 12-4 but Doncaster would end any hopes of a comeback with a five-try burst in the third quarter of the game.
This was kickstarted by centre Storey getting his second score just three minutes into the half, to open up a three-score lead.
Rochdale may wonder if things had been different had Zac Baker’s try not been disallowed for a forward pass, some two minutes later, but it wasn’t to be as Horne’s side continued to run in tries at will.
After being penalised for obstructing a Doncaster kick chase, the visitors could not prevent second row Sam Smeaton powering his way over to score his side’s fourth try.
Then, interchange Watson Boas would go over for the Yorkshire outfit after another Rochdale infringement – this time an illegal ball steal.
The Dons continued to hammer home their advantage five minutes later when Leon Ruan exposed a gap in the Hornets defence to dot down.
And things would get even better for the hosts from the restart, after an electric break down the left wing saw Travis Corion go the length of the pitch to score in the corner.
At 40-8, the game was now beyond Gary Thornton’s side and with that their season.
But, an acrobatic claiming of the restart by the tenacious Nixon saw Hornets surge towards The Dons’ line and, from there, Gregg McNally would pick out Cian Tyrer from a cross-field kick with the right wing finishing strongly in the corner.
However, two more tries in the closing 15 minutes would see Doncaster bring up the half century and record an emphatic score line despite two late, very well-taken, scores from Hornets’ Ben O’Keefe.
The defeat marks a disappointing end to an otherwise impressive season where Hornets have continued to improve, after missing out on last year’s play-offs.
Attention now turns to the 2023 campaign where Hornets will hope to challenge for promotion once again.
Doncaster: Taulapapa, Halliday, Storey, Tali, Corion, Johnston, Robinson; Holdstock, Burns, Wilkinson, Smeaton, Ruan, McConnell.
Interchanges: Roberts, Petersen, Fella, Boas.
Tries: Storey (9’, 43’), Tali (34’, 79’), Smeaton (50’), Boas (52’), Ruan (57’), Corion (59’), Johnston (67’)
Goals: Robinson, 8/9
Hornets: McNally, Tyrer, O’Keefe, Hitchcox, Nixon, Chase, Rush; Moimoi, Roden, Killan, Calland, Forster, Rogers.
Interchanges: Baker, Taira, Aspey, Brewin.
Tries: Nixon (29’), Tyrer (63’), O’Keefe (70’, 76’)
Goals: Tyrer, 2/4
Half time: 12-4
Referee: Thomas Grant
Image by Simon Hall