Workington Town have been promoted to the Betfred Championship after winning the League One play-off final 36-12 over Doncaster RLFC. It was a battling display from both sides, shown live on The Sportsman, but ultimately the hosts had too much for the Dons, who had performed out of their skin to make it this far.
As the lively fans celebrated with chants of “we are going up” and a pitch invasion, Chris Thorman can reflect on a job well done for his side. They came into this one as favorites and top performances from Marcus O'Brien, Carl Forber and Conor Fitzsimmons made sure that they end the day as a Championship side. But it was a tougher test than the scoreline suggests.
Town roared in front as Doncaster failed to come out the blocks in the opening seconds. O'Brien thundered through the defence before being stopped, however, the home side shifted the ball out to the right where Joe Brown was there to finish within the opening two minutes. The conversion followed and Town led 6-0 in the opening moments, a dream start for the hosts to the delight of the crowd.
Having been caught cold in the opening moments, Doncaster came back fighting. Workington’s Declan O’Donnell was shown a yellow card for a late shot on Matty Beharrell and Donny showed their resilience once again. Liam Johnson capped a flowing move after some good work from Jake Sweeting gave him the chance to finish and he made no mistake.
Even a man down, Workington were able to get their noses back in front. From close range, Conor Fitzsimmons crossed over and the Doncaster defence were left frustrated that they couldn’t keep the big man from touching down. Carl Forber added the extras to restore the hosts’ six-point advantage.
Some strong tackles from both sides saw the scoreline stagnate, until Workington made another breakthrough before half-time. Once again Fitzsimmons broke through the defensive line and he offloaded beautifully to Forber who had the simplest of jobs to make it 18-6, having also added the conversion.
However Dons, who showed their fighting spirit to reach this final, would not lie down. They bagged a late try in the first half through Ollie Greensmith to take them within six once more, and half-time gave us a chance to draw breath after an enthralling first period.
The first score of the second half felt pivotal with the score 18-12 at the break. And it was Workington who got it as Matty Henson kicked through and collected it to go over with a brilliant piece of individual skill to make it 24-12. From that moment, Richard Horne’s side could not get back into the game.
They kept on battling as tempers flared at times, but late on O’Brien beat two men with clever footwork to take the game out of sight and the talented Brad Holroyd put some gloss on the scoreline to secure promotion for Workington.
On the day, the Dons were simply second best and it is a fully deserved promotion for Workington, as they only finished second to champions Barrow during the regular season.
Congratulations to Chris Thorman, his staff and everybody at Workington Town - next season - the Betfred Championship, and Cumbrian neighbours Barrow Raiders and Whitehaven await!