Despite losing 46-6 Featherstone Lions coach Jamie Rooney could not have been any prouder of his team as they battled on to the end in their fourth round Coral Challenge Cup tie against League One Doncaster.
A few silly mistakes cost them in the final outcome, but the 17 lads that turned out did the club proud against professional opposition in a game played at Featherstone Rovers’ LD Nutrition Stadium.
Lacking three players banned from the York Acorn cup match in the previous round and missing two other key men, it was always going to be a big ask of the Lions, but until the 35th minute there were only two points between the sides before two quick tries saw the visitors take a 20-6 half-time lead.
George Nuttall, who is in outstanding form this season, along with Joe Fox were strong in defence as the Dons looked for a quick score. Josh Maiden made a superb cover tackle with the Lions split wide open, but the visitors scored wide out through Matty Chrimes.
Scott Glassell made a fine solo run from acting-half to lift Lions spirits, but it took a superb Danny Thompson tackle to stop the Dons again with the home defence split wide open. Doncaster made it pay with another try wide out from Sah Doherty.
Nuttall pulled off a fine interception on his own line and made a 35-yard run. Evan Morris was thrown into the fray and he made some big yards with his strong running. Morris Fox and Dean Gamble all went close before a Scott Glassell chip led to Nuttall swooping to score with Ian Jackson converting to make the score 8-6.
Lions followed up with a strong spell of pressure as Gaz Williamson, Josh Maden and Gamble were all held close to the Dons line. They then lost Williamson for a spell through injury, but continued to hammer away as Glassell, Jackson and Danny Gilbert were all halted short.
However, a missed tackle proved costly as Richard Owen scored a breakaway try and Jordan Howden converted.
Lions had a man sent to the sin-bin and Stefanos Bastas went over for another try with Howden goaling to make it 20-6 at half-time.
Featherstone continued their big effort into the second half with Gilbert making a couple of good breaks. Nuttall again went close before Doncaster rallied with Kieran Cross going over for another converted try.
Tom Wandless went close on a solo charge. Glassell then looked to have scored, but the referee said he was held up on the line. Doncaster finished strongly, though, as Conner Bower and Chrimes scored and Cross completed his hat-trick.
Lions lost Thompson after he caught a nasty elbow. They kept going with Conner Paver held near the corner flag and a Wandlass cheeky chip being hacked dead.
The players can hold their heads high and now they return to league action this Saturday at home to York Acorn in a rematch of the recent Challenge Cup tie. Kick-off is 2.30pm at the Mill Pond Stadium.