DONCASTER Rugby League Club will be looking to bounce back from a series of recent body blows in Sunday’s Championship One Play-Off semi-final against Workington Town at the Keepmoat Stadium.
The first blow came when the Rugby Football League, whose chief executive had e-mailed the Dons offering his congratulations on winning the title following their win at London Skolars in the last game of the season, informed the club that whilst they had won the Championship One League Leaders’ Shield, the champions would be the Play-Off winners.
“You couldn’t make it up,” said Dons chairman John Scarrow.
Having lost out on a championship medal, unless they win the Grand Final at Warrington at the end of the month, the Dons’ players suffered another setback when they were beaten at home at Championship One level for the first time this season in Sunday’s qualifying semi-final against Barrow, who finished runners-up to them in the league.
The game saw play-maker Paul Cooke injured in the first minute with a knee injury subsequently diagnosed as a cracked knee cap - an injury which automatically ruled him out of both Sunday’s game and the final against Barrow if they make it.
“It was obviously a big blow losing Cookie on Sunday because I thought had he not been injured that we’d have beaten Barrow,” said Dons’ skipper Craig Robinson.
“He’s a key man and adds a bit of structure to our game and he’s given us that all year. When he went off we had to play people in different positions and it didn’t quite work for us, though we came back well and ran them very close.
“Although Paul is obviously a very good player I don’t think that we are a one-man team and we put in some good performances in in the Northern Rail Cup at the start of the season, when he wasn’t involved, and I felt that we had enough good players out there on Sunday to have done us a job.
“I think the problem was that Paul going off disrupted our tactics. We’ve had time to work on things in training this week without him and hopefully we’ll have a better result.
“We know that Workington are a good side and that we’ll have to play well to beat them. But we’ve already beaten them at home in the league and we are confident that we can do so again on Sunday.
“There is every incentive because we want to get through to the final and beat Barrow and be crowned champions which we thought we already had been.”