A place in the Betfred Championship awaited the winners of the League One play-off game between Workington Town and Doncaster as the two sides battled it out to join the Barrow Raiders in promotion after reaching the end of season crunch match.
Doncaster won both encounters between the two sides in 2021 including a 26-24 win the last time that they visited Derwent Park at the end of May.
Workington Town, who finished the regular season as runners up to their near neighbours, were slight (-2) favourites with the bookies they entered the arena for this ‘all or nothing’ encounter after both clubs had scares in their semi-finals.
Town had the best possible start when they scored on their first attack of the game and with under two minutes on the clock when they moved the ball quickly moved from left to right with Joe Brown crossing in the corner. Carl Forber added the conversion to the delight of the home crowd.
Four minutes in Declan O’Donnell was sin-binned for a late tackle and on the first play from the penalty Liam Johnson charged over the line to show Doncaster’s early intent to make a real game of it. Matty Beharrell added the conversion to level the scores at 6-6.
After a frenetic start, the game showed little prospect of slowing up and on fourteen, pure determination from Conor Fitzsimmons ran the angle to crash over the line from ten metres. Forber was again accurate with the boot as the home side returned to thirteen men.
Town finished the half on the front foot with fast hand in front of the sticks before the ball found its way into the hands of Forber to dab down under the uprights and give himself a simple conversion for an 18-6 lead, Workington already with one foot in the Championship.
Just before the hooter Doncaster got their second try of the game with an attack down the left wing as Ben Cockayne and Beharrell combined to put Oliver Greensmith over in the corner. Beharrell added the conversion from wide to narrow the margin to just six points at the interval.
Workington stretched their lead on forty-eight with a great piece of skill from Matty Henson who collected his own grubber to ground in the corner. Forber converted in off the post for 24-12.
Doncaster had a try ruled out on fifty-nine for a forward pass as they pushed their luck and three minutes later they should have been over when Aaron York went for the line but great defence from Brad Holroyd held him up.
Tempers started to fray on both sides, but Workington extended their lead on seventy when Marcus O’Brien mesmerised the Doncaster defence to beat three tacklers and stretch to score. When Forber added the conversion it was 30-12, Workington now confident of Championship rugby next season.
Holroyd found his way to the line on seventy-six for the icing on Workington’s cake as they celebrated their victory and promotion. Forber added the conversion for a 36-12 lead and six from six on the afternoon.
Workington got their just deserts for an excellent season which saw them finish second after the regular rounds. They join fellow Cumbrian side Barrow as all three sides will now play their rugby in the Championship as they join Whitehaven in the second tier. Doncaster came and gave it their best, but it was always a big ask for the side who ended the season in fifth. Cumbria, it seems, is on the up in rugby league circles.
Workington Town: Holroyd (T), Young, Brown (T), Bickerdike, Olstrom, Doran, Forber (T, 6G), Lightowler, O’Donnell (SB on 4), O’Brien (T), Fitzsimmons (T), Barnes, Dawson. Subs: Henson (T), Clarke, Singleton, Wilson.
Doncaster: Taulapapa, Halliday, Smeaton, Tali, Greensmith (T), Sweeting, Beharrell (2G), Braham, Cockayne, Douglas, Johnson (T), Ollett-Hobson, Foster. Subs: Holdstock, Johnston, Whitmore, York.
Referee: Tom Grant.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, (SB), 6-4, 6-6, 10-6, 12-6, 16-6, 18-6, 18-10, 18-12 : HT : 22-12, 24-12, 28-12, 30-12, 34-12, 36-12 : FT.
Venue: Derwent Park, Workington.