Wednesday, 02 December 2015

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Doncaster end Whitehaven's Championship One play-offs hopes

Doncaster 34 Whitehaven 16: A season that promised so much for Whitehaven ended with a whimper at Doncaster yesterday.

Andrew Beattie photo
Andrew Beattie

The Cumbrians emerged to a great reception from their travelling faithful but it was all downhill from that point.

They had been beaten by a whisker at the Keepmoat last month, yet with a place in the play-off second round at stake, it was a different story.

With Craig Benson sidelined by illness, Carl Sice, so dangerous of late from hooker, switched to full-back, where he had a little experience, and in general he stood up well to a series of testing bombs from the hosts, who were on the back foot in the opening moments.

Haven were handed a penalty in the game’s first tackle for lying-on, and another on the next for offside.

But there was no way through the Doncaster line. Andreas Bauer was then held just short of the whitewash after nice work from Chris Smith.

And when a try came, it went to the Yorkshire side, on their first attack on eight minutes, winger Gareth Potts touching down out wide and Scott Spaven adding the first of his five conversions.

Haven had a chance to hit back when Scott McAvoy pinched the ball from full-back Mick Butterfield close to Doncaster’s line.

The over-eager home defence was caught offside and Haven had a full set from just five metres out.

Yet again, there was no end product to their work and they were denied a try.

They went from attack to defence in the blink of an eye on 15 minutes as McAvoy lost the ball on the first tackle deep in the Doncaster half.

Lee Doran was penalised for failing to clear the ruck and Mike Emmett’s quick break from dummy-half down the left flank caught Haven napping and Cumbrian Stewart Sanderson was in support to touch down.

Butterfield crossed in the corner four minutes later and Haven could have been in even deeper trouble had Dom Dee’s effort been allowed to stand.

The sub looked to reach out of a tackle to touch down but ref Ronnie Laughton was well-placed to rule he had spilled the ball.

Sice gave Haven hope on 25 minutes, nipping over from dummy-half with Smith lying prone nearby.

Smith had to be helped off, injured, prompting a reshuffle, Sice switching to No9 and Bauer moving to full-back, where he looked assured throughout.

Hopes of a fight-back evaporated four minutes later, the hosts running the ball on the last tackle and ex-Wath Brow amateur Sanderson squeezing in at the corner.

It was a good effort but Haven may well be unhappy they didn’t do better to keep him out.

They were at least given some hope in the closing moments of the half, an alert Beattie spotting that Doncaster were slow at marker and sprinting 50 metres down the middle of the park.

Haven then forced consecutive drop-outs, prompted by Sice, only to lack invention late in sets.

The Cumbrians started the second-half brightly, their forwards putting Doncaster on the back foot.

But after forcing a drop-out, Beattie fumbled as he tried to gather the re-start. The Aussie, one of Haven’s most solid performers all season at loose-forward but given a right-wing role in the re-shaped team following Smith’s departure, then spilled a cross-field kick.

And to make matters worse, Haven followed with a high tackle. Lewis Palfrey managed to hoof the ball dead at the end of the next set.

The Yorkshiremen regained possession however and exploited Haven’s left fringe, Potts crossing for his second try.

The game could finally be said to have slipped away from Haven on 63 minutes, second-row Grant Edwards nipping over in the same area from dummy-half.

Perhaps Haven suddenly relaxed, as they started to play some great rugby down the middle, with hard-working Paul King to the fore.

They were offloading at will and almost everything was sticking, Lee Doran completing a four-man move to cross on 69 minutes. Five minutes later, Bradd Crellin took Carl Rudd’s pass to score.

If only Haven could have produced such moves an hour earlier, they may be looking forward to a play-off tie at the weekend.

Instead, they will be left wondering what might have been without their nine-point deduction.

Without that penalty, they would have finished runners-up in Championship One and enjoyed an easier play-off passage.

In a short 20-game season, it proved simply too big a burden to overcome.

Doncaster: Butterfield, Potts, Spurr, Morrison, Sanderson, Fawcett, Spaven, Scott, Emmett, Samson, Robinson, Edwards, Hughes. Subs: Carbutt, Dee, Kesik, Coady.

Tries: Potts 2, Sanderson 2, Butterfield, Edwards; Goals: Spaven 5

Whitehaven: Sice, Bauer, Beattie, McAvoy, Calvert, Palfrey, Rudd, Haggarty, C Smith, Hill, S Miller, Doran, Gerrard. Subs: Wilton, King, Farrer, Crellin.

Tries: Sice, Doran, Crellin; Goals: Palfrey 1, Rudd 1

Referee: Ronnie Laughton

Attendance: 418

Star Man: Paul King



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