Doncaster 31 Hunslet 10: Parksiders' season ends with play-off defeat
It was a bitterly disappointing finale for the Parksiders, who took an early lead, but never looked like pulling the game from the fire after trailing 18-6 at the break.
Hunslet finished sixth in the table, one place behind the Dons and were unbeaten in this season’s league meetings, winning 46-26 at Keepmoat Stadium last month following an 18-18 home draw earlier in the campaign. With their only defeat under coach Alan Kilshaw being at league leaders Barrow Raiders, they could go into the sudden-death tie in confident mood, but it was a flat performance after an excellent start.
Hunslet scored first and last and, for the most part, there wasn’t much in it, but Doncaster were more clinical.
The south Leeds side went ahead after just four minutes, thanks largely to the vision and accurate boot of their veteran half-back Dom Bramabani. His 40-20 kick set up an attack and, on the last, Brambani’s kick to the corner was taken by another veteran, winger Wayne Reittie, for a try which the No 7 also converted from the touchline.
Other than a similar kick by Brambani which Reittie couldn’t take, Hunslet didn’t really threaten for the rest of the half and Doncaster fought back to take a 12-point interval lead.
On-loan Leeds Rhinos back Liam Tindall sent Sam Smeaton in on the next play after Aaron Ollett-Hobson had been held up; then Brandon Douglas crashed over from close-range to make it 12-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Crucially, in the final minute of the half, former Castleford Tigers stand-off Jake Sweeting - on loan from Featherstone Rovers - caught Hunslet napping with a 40-20 and, from that, Liam Johnson went over off Ollett Hobson’s short pass.
Matty Beharrell - whose drop goal attempt moments earlier had bounced back off the crossbar - booted his third conversion to make it 18-6.
Hunslet substitute Joe Summers got over the line early in the second period, but was held up by Sweeting, who played alongside him for Rovers in the 1895 Cup final at Wembley two months ago and also had a loan spell with the Parksiders earlier this year. Doncaster could have sealed it with 17 minutes left when Aaron York found himself with only Lewis Young to beat, but the Hunslet full-back made an excellent tackle and Beharrell spilled the off-load.
He made amends moments later with a well-struck drop goal to open a three-score gap then Sweeting intercepted Jy-mel Coleman’s pass to race the length of the field before Ollett-Hobson blasted through for a solo try. Beharrell maintained his 100 per cent record with the boot, but Hunslet grabbed a late consolation try through Matty Chrimes, from Summers’ pass.
Zac Braham, who left Hunslet and controversially joined Doncaster in the wake of previous coach Gary Thornton’s sacking two months ago, started at prop for the hosts, but lasted just seven minutes before hobbling out of the action with a leg injury.
Doncaster: Tindall, Halliday, Smeaton, Tali, Greensmith, Sweeting, Beharrell, Braham, Cockayne, Douglas, Johnson, Ollett-Hobnson, Foster. Subs Bravo., York, Holdstock, Whitmore.
Hunslet: Young, Reittie, Cooke, Chrimes, Chapman-Smith, Coleman, Brambani, Wray, Whiteley, Kidfd, Hey, Straugheir, Wood. Halafihi, Rowe, Andrade, Summers.
Referee: Nick Bennett (Wakefield).