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Kingstone Press Championship Round 22 – Doncaster v Halifax Preview

Two teams with totally contrasting wants to win. Doncaster recorded their first victory of 2015 last weekend and will be wanting to add to their total this weekend against a very strong Halifax side who are in top form. Although they only beat Batley by three points, Richard Marshall’s Fax are in a brilliant position with two games to go. They stand in 4th on the Kingstone Press Championship ladder with a better points difference than Sheffield in 3rd and Featherstone in 5th.

Last Time Out

Doncaster got on the board for 2015 with a 34-26 victory, made more unbelievable as they came back from 26-6 down in the second half. Joe McLocklan gave Doncaster the lead on 26 minutes but Hunslet had a slender advantage at the break after four pointers courtesy of Danny Maun and Matty Gee. The visitors made a brilliant start to the second half as Gee completed his double, further tries from Richie Barnett and Callum Casey also did the Hawks’ cause a lot of good. Donny seemed to be heading for another defeat but they showed a lot of character to get back in the game. Peter Fox started the revival in the 54th minute before converted scores from Mitch Clark and Steve Snitch brought Gary Thornton’s side back to within four points of the visitors. The comeback was complete when Paul Mennell touched down but a simple looking conversion was missed by Dave Scott, meaning the scores were tied with just over ten minutes left. Matt Groat burst through the Hunslet banks to give Doncaster a well deserved lead. The try was converted by Scott, and the winger even added a penalty goal in the dying embers of the game.

Halifax edged past fellow West Yorkshire side Batley Bulldogs at The Shay. A 25-22 win seemed a bit too close to comfort for the Fax fans, especially after their side were 24-6 up with 11 minutes remaining. Two tries were scored in the first half and both went to Fax through Ben Johnston and Adam Robinson. Brad Day hit back after the restart for Batley before James Saltonstall and Johnston both made their way to the whitewash in close succession. But as the final ten minutes approached, the Bulldogs showed some stereotypical bite with tries from Wayne Reittie and Keegan Hirst. Halifax’s Scott Murrell settled the ship with a calming drop-goal but Reittie had another surprise for his former side as he went over for a brace. Scott Leatherbarrow missed the conversion, leaving three points between the two sides with moments left. Nothing was conjured up by Batley in the final play so Halifax kept the spoils at The Shay, and took one more step closer to the Qualifiers.

Key Battle

Doncaster’s comeback last Sunday came with an impressive second half performance by their forwards. Matt Groat and Mitch Clark were fearless in the front-row whilst back-rowers Steve Snitch and Ben Musolino stood up for the cause and made yards with every carry. Mike Emmett at loose forward also had a good game and he was a key figure for the Dons last season. Halifax have been immense in the past month or so, and that’s also a testament to the work done by players such as Dane Manning, Ross Divorty and Richard Moore. There’s some good experience in that Halifax back-row and they never back down to any challenge so it’ll be interesting to see how they deal with an invigorated Dons side who are wanting to build up some confidence before the regular season ends.

Prediction

It’s been quite a while since Doncaster have prepared for a match with a winning mentality. Gary Thornton will be hoping to see his side continue to gradually improve until the end of the season, and however many wins come their way is a bonus. Halifax have a tough date with Bradford to round off the regular season so a win in this game is paramount for the West Yorkshire side – Fax by 16

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