Date published: August 08, 2022
A young Rochdale Hornets side could not survive a second-half fightback from in-form Doncaster as they slipped to a narrow 26-20 loss at the Eco-Power Stadium.
The game marked the Hornets’ first since the appointment of Gary Thornton as head coach, who was without 13 on his team.
Selection issues facing the Hornets meant 41-year-old Fuifui Moimoi was needed from the start of the game, but the former New Zealand international was a threat straight away with typically colossal runs.
Similarly, Watson Boas caused problems for the Hornets defense from the start, but neither team managed to force their way through until the 19th minute.
After a brutal break from hooker Kieran Rush, the Hornets headed the ball to Dan Nixon whose brilliant acrobatics gave Thornton’s side a surprise lead.
Rush would then nail the conversion, from the touchline, before extending Rochdale’s lead to eight after the Dons were penalized for a high tackle.
Things got even better for the Hornets about seven minutes later when debutant Brad Ward superbly claimed a high ball from Rangi Chase and held the covering defense to point.
However, on the stroke of half-time, Jason Tali blasted his way in for the hosts’ first try to inflict the only first-half blemish on Thornton as head coach.
Having struggled to get going in the first half, largely due to handling errors, Doncaster started to kick into high gear when they came off after the break – and they soon had their second try.
After a few quick hands, Tali slammed her way back down the Hornets line – in a near-exact replica of her first down.
The two sides then traded sets, both of which resulted in goal-line retirements, before the South Yorkshire side took the lead for the first time.
A fine break from Boas before picking off Travis Corion, who ran to score, meant Doncaster took a two-point lead going into the final quarter.
Boas then got a well-deserved try just three minutes later when he crossed the Hornets line and ran 20 yards out.
But the Hornets fought back with a try of their own as Chase raced from close range to give his team hope in the closing stages.
However, the Hornets failed to manage the Test restart which saw Doncaster win a scrum from just ten yards out.
The hosts were clinical, scoring the first phase, after working the ball to the left edge where Corion dove for his second try.
Connor Robinson’s missed conversion meant Rochdale were still within a score, heading into the closing minutes.
But, Thornton’s young team could find no way through the Dons’ defense despite the best efforts of halfbacks Chase and Cobi Green.
A search pass from Green to Nixon, in the closing stages, was deemed to have been advanced and the horn sounded before the scrum could be taken.
It is the first time this season that the Hornets have suffered back-to-back league defeats but, on a day when four players made their Rochdale debuts, they can be very proud of the determination they showed throughout the game.
They will now hope they can translate that into a win on Sunday August 14 when Cornwall make the long journey to Rochdale (1pm kick-off).
Doncaster: Taulapapa, Halliday, Storey, Tali, Corion, Boas, Robinson; Holdstock, burns; Kenga, Ollett-Hobson, Smeaton, McConnell
Exchanges: Roberts, Ruan, Petersen, Fella.
Tries: Tali (36′, 51′), Corion (59′, 72′), Boas (62′).
Goals: Robinson, 3/5.
Hornets: Sheridan, Nixon, Calland, Ward, Harrison, Chase, Green; Moimoi, Rush, Bennion, Parnaby, Forster, Aspey.
Exchanges: Taira, Killan, Metcalfe, Birtle.
Tries: Nixon (19′), Ward (32′), Chase (69′).
Goals: Rush, 4/4.