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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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Barrow Raiders reach Grand Final with Doncaster win

CO-OPERATIVE CHAMPIONSHIP ONE PLAY-OFFS RESULT

Doncaster RLFC 20 Barrow Raiders 22

THE Grand Final here we come. Barrow Raiders overcame the odds to record their best victory of the season when it mattered most.

Against a Doncaster side unbeaten at the Keepmoat throughout the Championship One season, Barrow dug deep into their reserves to produce one of the grittiest, most determined and downright brilliant performances of the year.

Despite losing captain Liam Harrison and loose forward Dan Toal to injury at various points, despite having men walking wounded on the field come the end, they reach the Championship One showpiece with a superb display.

What they wanted was a strong start, what they did not want was to concede two penalties within 30 seconds of the kick-off and have the home side camped on their line.

But that was exactly what happened as James Gordon obstructed Paul Cooke off the first play and the entire defence was called for offside on the second.

It was early momentum the Dons were not going to turn down as rotund hooker Kyle Kesik went in from dummy-half from five yards out and scored within two minutes for 6-0.

On Barrow’s first possession, just two tackles in, Ruairi McGoff knocked-on and when they eventually came close to the Doncaster line, Liam Campbell lost the ball twice.

Fears of a repeat of their performance at Rochdale last month were growing, but they were unfounded, even if four penalties within five minutes did not yield any reward.

Yet strong defence from Liam Harrison poleaxed Craig Fawcett near the line and Dean Colton was dragged into touch over the line by a collective grit and Doncaster now started to lose their discipline.

Another string of penalties saw Kesik sent to the sin-bin after referee Matthew Thomason had warned the home side, the man advantage paying off for Barrow as Harrison ploughed a furrow and sent Aaron Low in to level matters at 6-6.

But, despite being a man down and with Cooke limping his way around the field, the Dons struck next, Mr Thomason playing an assisting role as he failed to pay proper attention to play and ran defensive line, blocking Harrison and Dan Toal and allowing Carl Hughes to run through.

It was a blow which could have knocked the Barrow confidence, but they responded with a superb try of their own.

Scott Kaighan had been careful of the swirling wind all afternoon with his kicks and now on the last tackle he hung a ball towards the left. Low was running towards it, took it in a leaping stride and carried on for 25 metres to score brilliantly.

They were not done either. As the clock ticked down on the first half, the ball went wide right and acting half-back James Dandy found Chris Larkin on the flank.

The centre dummied to go outside, sold it magnificently and instead came in through a huge gap to score, 16-12 at the break to the visitors.

A quick addition followed after half-time, with James Dany in from dummy half near the posts after Jamie Butler’s powerful run had been held up over the line, and Andrew Dawson had been denied a first score for the club by a matter of inches.

It provoked an immediate Doncaster response, however, with Martin Ostler failing to take the kick-off and allowing it into touch.

A penalty nearly on the line followed and Doncaster twice were denied by last-gasp tackles before a high kick to the left corner was allowed to bounce and Lucas Walshaw was the man to gratefully take it and close the gap to 22-16.

The hosts thought they had scored again as Kesik’s grubber between the posts was fumbled by Barrow and Liam Cunningham followed up to ground, only to see it chalked off by the touch judge for offside.

The same was true of Dan Toal, who took a short Campbell pass and ran through, only for it to be called forward before he could reach the whitewash.

With Harrison off the field injured followed by a groggy Toal following after being hit hard trying to make a tackle, it was vital for Raiders to keep up their efforts in the face of adversity for 25 minutes.

They could hold out for only a matter of minutes as another high Kesik kick to the same corner was plucked from the air by Stewart Sanderson, beating the flat-footed Mike Backhouse to the ball to ground.

That made the gap just two points in Barrow’s favour, but they had a long time to cope without their captain, though Toal returned within 10 minutes looking far sprightlier than he had when he left.

It was becoming frantic and chances were coming for both sides, Kaighan creating one from nothing with a break after he had received a poor pass on the last, but Toal knocking-on and sending Lee Waterman breaking away for the Dons, stopped on halfway by a key tackle by Ryan Duffy.

Dandy then found James Gordon on the blind side down the left, but the second-rower’s pass to a sprinting James Nixon was forward and the winger was pulled back.

Dandy broke again through the middle and looked inside for support, but he could not find Toal – who would have been in – and the tension grew.

It was not time for mistakes, but Low – so sublime until now – knocked-on less than five yards in front of his own posts and the Dons had a full set to try and push home their advantage. Brilliantly, Barrow held firm.

But Doncaster kept on coming. They would not let Barrow more than 20 metres from their own line with the ball and were always in the opposition half when they attacked.

Raiders took the ball with a minute to go, surely the slowest set of six they would ever play.

The clock ticked down – 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 10 and then a Doncaster scrum 15 yards from their line and the hooter went.

But more drama – a penalty for interference from Barrow and one more play. James Nixon caught another kick, took a boot, but they held on.

Victory. What a way to do it.

Doncaster will fancy their chances of beating Workington and setting up a repeat in the Grand Final, but Barrow have a week off, the knowledge they can beat the Dons even on their own patch and this superb victory to carry them all the way to Warrington.

Have your say

And your comments say a lot about "you" and supporters in general of your sport.

Posted by D Fender. on 23 October 2012 at 18:07

Footballers spend 90 minutes pretending they are hurt, Rugby League players spend 80 minutes pretending they aren't. Says a lot about footballers and the supporters of that "sport".

Posted by Rugby fan on 10 October 2012 at 20:04

View all 41 comments on this article

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