Thursday, 1 September 2016

Sunday's Coming: Doncaster

This looks like being an interesting weekend in League 1.

According to coach Gary Thornton, Doncaster come to Spotland on Sunday with an eye on finishing third. But a Hornets win on Sunday will deny them that, guaranteeing Killer’s side at least a home tie in the playoffs.
Doncaster's Gary Thornton describes the huge carp he lost,
legering a meatball on a size 8 hook.

With Barrow Travelling for their shot at Toulouse this weekend, a defeat there leaves the door open for Hornets to take second place - which would require a Barrow defeat and a Hornets victory in both remaining games.

But you have to wonder - contrary to the accepted meritocracy/success model in sport - whether finishing third and securing a home tie in the playoffs would be better for morale and progress than having to haul everyone back down to the South of France to be served-up as the main-course at TOXIIIC’s promotion party - and THEN having to embark on a playoff odyssey. Certainly, in a recent conversartion we had with an RFL match commissioner, he suggested (well, basically, said) that teams would be better off avoiding second place and launching their promotion bid at home from third (one game fewer, less impact on the playing squad, leas risk of injury, less disruption to the next round preparation, less hassle…)

Indeed it seems strange to us that the team that scraps its way to second effectively gets punished for its success. But whichever route you take, it’s that 2,3,4,5 playoff that really matters and, as everyone sucks in for one last push, Doncaster still have three games to play.

Having  fallen foul of the ongoing York City Knights fiasco, Donny now face three games in 8 days to sustain their playoff push. In the week when we’ve learned that ‘Zombie’ club York will be permitted the opportunity to f*ck-up everyone else’s promotion challenges, it’s looking increasingly likely that RL’s serial basket-case will tank at the end of the season. Bookie’s favourite for offering a ressurrection are temporary landlords  - and protagonists in the Knights demise - York City Football Club. A little bit like being rescued from a crocodile-infested river by cannibals…

Last time out, an injury hit Doncaster (who had just 17 fit players) pulled off a miracle comeback win against Keighley. Trailing 24-12 with 15 minutes remaining, they nicked a remarkable 26–24 victory thanks to a late, late penalty from Tom Carr - effectively consigning Cougars coach Paul March to the Job Centre.

Speaking in the (Sheffield) Star, Thornton said: “I never thought we had looked like scoring in the first 20 minutes of the half to be honest and I was worried going into the last quarter,. We weren’t creating anything and we were coming up with some poor options and it looked as though we were panicking.

“But we dug really deep in the last 20 minutes and I was proud of the lads and they showed terrific character.
I think the turning point was when we scored our third try and cut their lead to six points with fifteen minutes to go. I was reasonably confident then and in the end I thought we just about deserved to edge it.“

“… with York losing at home to Hunslet we climbed above them into fourth spot and with just three games to go it’s our position to lose. If we can get a couple of bodies back I don’t see why we can’t go to Rochdale and win…”

Doncaster have been fortunate to hang onto Hull FC’s Samoan prop Iafeta Paleaaesina on DR for the Super 8 run-in;  having played enough games to qualify for the run-in, he was given permission by his parent club to stay with the Dons. It’s also likely that both Liam Welham and Makali Aizue will make a return from injury to play at the weekend.

Hornets come into the game also hoping to have a few bodies back in commission - most notably, Chris Riley returning from a broken hand and a subsequent training injury. Certainly Killer’s side came back from the Toulouse trip with a miscelleny of knocks: Michael Ratu struggling with an abdominal injury; Jake Shoel removed with an arm injury.

Hornets are also buoyed by the securing of Josh Crowley and Jono Smith for next year.

On paper this should be an intriguing contest. Over the last 8 meetings the records couldn’t be much closer: four wins each, Hornets scoring 195 points to Doncaster’s 200; Hornets scoring 37 tries to Doncaster’s 36; Doncaster with 28 goals to Hornets’ 22. And Hornets leading 3-nil in drop goals.

You really can’t put an old-skool fag-paper betwen these sides. So - everything to play for between two acutely evenly matched sides. Just how we like it. See you Sunday.