Leigh Centurions v Doncaster: Cooke lifts spirits ahead of play-off clash

Lee Waterman
Lee Waterman

Paul Cooke has worked hard this week to disperse the ‘doom and gloom’ which hung over the Keepmoat Stadium after Sunday’s 34-10 defeat by Batley Bulldogs.

“It was probably our poorest performance at home this season and I don’t mean that technically, but in terms of what we allowed the opposition to do to us,” said player coach Cooke.

Doncaster RLFC's Paul Cooke.

Doncaster RLFC's Paul Cooke.

“Batley produced their best performance of the season on the day and, although that is no consolation, it was a big factor in the way the game went.

“In our defence, in the previous 25 rounds we’ve been a very difficult team to beat and merited being a top-four club.

“I know everybody was down earlier in the week as a result of how the game played out, but that shouldn’t detract from what has been a magnificent season and I can’t praise the players enough.

“Don’t forget that there were only eight points in it after 70 minutes but we ran out of numbers due to injuries and ran out of steam and Batley were too good for us at that stage and scored three late tries.”

Sunday’s defeat saw Doncaster finish fourth in the final league standings and set up a play-off trip to leaders Leigh this weekend. The losers will play the winners of the Sheffield-Batley tie in the next phase of games.

“I was disappointed at not holding onto third place but I would have felt even worse had Featherstone not won as defeat would have lost us an extra £250,000 in prize money,” said Cooke.

“Although we’ve now got a tougher route to the Grand Final than would have been the case had we finished third, at least we’ve not lost out financially as the teams finishing third and fourth get the same amount of money.

“As I say, it’s going to be tough going to Leigh as they are the stand-out team in this division and are red-hot favourites to win the competition.

“They’ve only lost two games all season, against the eventual winners Leeds Rhinos in the Challenge Cup and only one in the league. You don’t get to that level by accident.

“They are a really good side with quality throughout their ranks.

“We can take great pride in the fact that we are the only Championship team to have beaten them this season.

“But we’ve got to come up with some answers to what went wrong against Batley and we’ve got to make sure our attitude and desire is as good as Batley’s was on Sunday.”