Thursday, 7 July 2016

Sunday's Coming: Doncaster

Go on, admit it: you’d completely forgotten that Doncaster were in this division.

Last, but not least, Donny make their way over to Spotland for Sunday’s game. with both parties having secured a top-four berth. While Hornets look set for second-place (bar a defeat on Sunday and a 50 point win for York at Keighley), a Doncaster win and a defeat for York by the Cougars (who can now no longer improve on 6th) would hoist Donny into third - which brings with it a lovely trip to France. Finish fourth, however and TOCXIIIC come to you. Only the RFL could come up with that gem. But it’s a high-class problem to have.

In this final ‘regular round’ it’s London Skolars’ turn to have a pop at non-full-time Toulouse. Having guaranteed a place in the 8, they should be full of confidence and it’d be nice to think that there could be an upset on the cards.

Further down the table, all eyes will be on Hunslet and Newcastle for who finishes in the dreaded 9th spot. Currently separated by a single point, Hunslet have the narrow advantage in the battle to prove which side can underperform the most this season.

Newcastle ThunderFalcons make the long trip down to Hemel, so you have to fancy them to win, which puts pressure on Hunslet to get a win from the visit of Crusaders. This battle is made more interesting as both sides have identical points differences, so a Hunslet draw and a big Newcastle win could see the Hawks’ 2016 effectively dead in the water on points difference. And Crusaders already have two draws under their belt this season. You can hear the sphincters squeak from here.

Speaking of which, Doncaster come on Sunday having ripped Hemel Stags a brand new bumhole in an 80-point thrashing at the Keepmoat last week.

But coach Gary Thornton isn’t pleased with the 18 points they conceded. Speaking on the club’s website this week he said: “I’m not so pleased with the 18 points we conceded…” - wise words, mate.

To be fair, he also said: “It is mind games, you are 18 points up against anybody and you take your foot off the gas a little bit and I want us to get away from that”. Alan Kilshaw will probably agree.

Thornton continued:  “We will go to Rochdale confident, we know they have beaten Keighley and they are a good team, but we will go there with a very positive mind-set. I don’t want to be disrespectful by any means, but we won’t be playing the likes of Hemel and South Wales Scorpions, we will be playing the likes of Rochdale week in week out and we know it is going to be a very tough act.”

“We need to cut out some of our errors, because teams in the Super 8s will definitely hurt us, we need to be a lot more professional about things and fix up some of the mistakes we are coming up with at the moment.”

When you look at Doncaster’s squad, it’s a robust, work-hard outfit, augmented by Papua New Guineans Jason Tali and the redoubtable Makali Aizue - who we reckon is 40 next year! Tali weighed-in with two tries last week - but most eyecatching was a hat-trick from prop Connor Scott.

In Summary: threats, but mistakes.

Hornets come into this final game before the inaugural split looking good in second place. Alan Kilshaw has done a great job in building on previous seasons’ work and has instilled a grittier, harder edge to a side that could always play, but could always have had a sharper ‘Killer’ instinct.

Last week’s win over Keighley was an archetypal game of two halves: a first 40 of high-tempo intensity that blew Keighley away; the second forty a stubborn rearguard action as the visitors capitalised on a team bent completely out of shape and short on replacement bodies.

For us, though, the moment that underlined Hornets’ determination was Ben Julilen’s counter-attacking overlap try when we were down to 12 men.

We can’t wait though, for the contest between 'The Suva Express' Jo Taira and Makali Aizue - a big-hitting heavyweight contest that again pits PNG’s battle hardened veteran against Hornets’ fearless Fijian wrecking-ball tyro. Worth the admission money alone. See you Sunday.