Not for the first time this season the North Wales Crusaders were gallant losers.
For the entire 80 minutes Crusaders matched Doncaster in all departments, but as against Barrow and Whitehaven before, they were left frustrated.
Despite missing six key men in the shape of Danny Hulme, Leon Brennan, Christiaan Roets, Kriss Wilkes, Jono Smith and Jamie Durbin, the home side produced some entertaining attacking rugby on a baking hot day in Wrexham.
Tries from Adam Clay, Rob Massam, Andy Moulsdale, Simon Stephens and Billy Sheen, four of which were converted by Sam Broadbent, gave Crusaders a sniff of a third Championship One triumph.
As it proved, some slack defending and poor officiating was decisive as Clive Griffith’ men were left on the wrong side of the scoreline once more.
Indeed, Doncaster didn’t have to work too hard to open the deadlock three minutes into the match as Crusaders gifted the visiting side possession with the try line in sight.
Full-back Tommy Johnson spilled a regulation bomb and from the resulting penalty, Russ Spiers found an all too inviting gap in the home defence and dived over, Tom Hodson adding the extras.
However, the hosts’ heads didn’t drop after the disappointing start and they were soon on level terms thanks to a maiden Stephens try.
A helpful ricochet landed the way of Broadbent and after he tiptoed to within five metres of the whitewash he offloaded for Stephens to plough over for his first score in a Crusaders’ shirt.
Broadbent kicked the additional two points and the centre looked set for a second conversion attempt moments later, but Clay’s desperate effort was ruled out by the touch judge.
Crusaders looked comfortable in attack but more slack defending – after some brilliant work by Lee Hudson and Johnson had halted Craig Fawcett’s threatening run – they allowed Chris Spurr an unchallenged passage to the line, Hodson doing the rest with the conversion.
Much like the opening Doncaster try, Crusaders responded with six points of their own as Sheen and Andy Gorski produced a series of one-twos before the former crashed over the line, Broadbent again kicking the extras.
And Crusaders were soon in front as captain Moulsdale burrowed through a mass of bodies to dot down, Broadbent making it three from three with the kick.
Rather than extend their advantage, however, Crusaders were forced to head into half-time level at 18-18.
Owain Brown and Broadbent held up potential tries before Spiers was able to ground the ball for a second time, Hodson making light of the conversions to add the two points.
If the Crusaders’ start to the first half was far from ideal then the opening 10 minutes of the second period were catastrophic.
What looked like a Doncaster knock on from a diagonal kick was swooped on by Cook who managed to apply downward pressure before sliding into touch, the referee deeming that the ball had come off the arm of Clay much to the annoyance of the home side and the fans.
Worse was to follow as Fawcett danced through some static defence moments later, Hodson adding one conversion from the quick-fire brace.
An impressive Crusaders score curtailed the Doncaster scoring. Moulsdale intercepting a pass close to his own try line and in tandem with Clay they made a threatening break.
From the resulting play, Anthony Morrison produced a wonderful pass to release wing Massam and the former Chester Gladiator held off a hopeful tackle to race over, Broadbent missing his first conversion of the afternoon.
Crusaders were encouraged by the simplicity of their score, but Doncaster found the home defence wanting as they opened up an 18-point advantage with another quick brace.
Mike Butterfield and Fawcett were the scorers, both carving through a sloppy Crusaders line with ease, Hodson and Lee Waterman converting the respective tries.
Crusaders conjured up another response, Alex Trumper and Johnson combining before Clay grabbed the try he deserved, side-stepping off his wing to score.
Broadbent added his fourth conversion, but it was a kick by Doncaster’s Fawcett that settled the game, the scrum-half landing a drop goal to leave Crusaders needing three scores.
The home side were unable to close the deficit and another defeat was chalked up.
North Wales Crusaders: Johnson, Clay, Cross, Broadbent, Massam, Moulsdale, Sheen, Walker, Hudson, I Brown, Gorski, Morrison, Stephens.
Replacements: O Brown, Clarke, Trumper, Griffiths.
Doncaster: Butterfield, Sanderson, Spurr, Waterman, Hodson, Cooke, Fawcett, Castle, Kesik, Spiers, Kelly, Lawton, Emmett.
Replacements: Powley, Welsh, Robinson, Colton.
Referee: Jamie Bloem.
Man of the Match: Iwan Brown – Really starting to find his very best form for the Crusaders and produced another impressive display.
See full story in the Leader