Hunslet’s 100 per cent winning record at the South Leeds Stadium in Betfred League One this year was shattered on Sunday by Doncaster, who came from 14-8 down early in the second half to prevail 26-14 and book a home slot in the Betfred League One Promotion Grand Final on Sunday 24 September.
The Parksiders now entertain North Wales Crusaders – who edged Oldham 13-12 in their elimination tie – this Sunday in the second qualifying semi-final.
Tries by Adam Ryder and Johnny Campbell, plus three goals by Matty Beharrell, who had hit the 500 career-mark with his first success, had given Hunslet their lead, although a disallowed touchdown by Jack Render, who had risen superbly to Beharrell’s bomb but had his score vetoed through a double-movement ruling, proved costly.
Doncaster, who had opened with a brace for Mahe Fonua, had the better of the business end of the contest with unanswered tries for Ben Johnston, Watson Boas and Sam Smeaton, with Connor Robinson kicking three goals. The Parksiders’ cause, meanwhile, wasn’t helped by a hip injury to Lewis Wray, whose season is over, and the effects of a recent ankle injury on Harvey Hallas, who was forced to come off.
Hunslet’s head coach Alan Kilshaw, who had to head for home immediately after the game as his partner, Hannah, is due to give birth at any time, said: “We weren’t very good in the second half and we were patchy in the first half. We looked a bit underdone, really, and perhaps our soft run towards the play-offs, with one or two big wins and a game at Workington that didn’t mean a massive amount, worked against us. Doncaster, by contrast, had met champions Dewsbury, and experienced a play-off match against Oldham which was tougher than the 36-0 scoreline might suggest. In contrast to us they looked battle-hardened, especially in the important closing stages, when heavyweight recent signings such as Albert Vete had a big impact.
“For all that, though, we could have won the game. Render’s disallowed try looked fine, and Taulapapa definitely knocked the ball forward for Fonau’s second score. That represented a 12-point turnaround. But credit to the Dons, they were the better side on the day and deserved their win. All our focus will now be on North Wales Crusaders, who are a good young side, in Sunday’s home qualifying semi-final.”