Published in Thirteen in 2005
by Gareth Hodgson
Stones Bitter Division Two
Batley v Doncaster
24 April 1994
A Fantastic Bloody Sunday!
Few clubs in professional sport have experienced as many lows as Doncaster. Since the clubs first season in 1951-52, Doncaster have spent more seasons struggling at the foot of rugby league than their hardened fans would care to remember. From 1956-1961, Doncaster finished every single season as the bottom side in rugby league, and remained consistently in the bottom three from 1963-1968. The seventies and early ‘eighties proved to be no better, with Doncaster only escaping a bottom-three finish on two occasions between 1970 and 1985.
This month in Thirteen we look back to April 24th 1994, when, Doncaster travelled to Batley’s Mount Pleasant on the last day of the season knowing that a victory would clinch their promotion to the old First Division, and potentially even clinch the Second Division Championship.
Doncaster had been in the driving seat after winning eight consecutive games but in the penultimate game of the season they fell to a shock 20-2 defeat at Spotland to mid-table Rochdale Hornets as Workington Town capitalised and trounced Keighley Cougars 54-2 to take top spot. Although mathematically Doncaster could still clinch the Championship at Batley, Town’s final game appeared to be a straight-forward win, away at second-bottom Bramley so realistically Doncaster knew that promotion was the real prize. To add extra spice to the occasion, both Doncaster and Batley were tied on 43 points going into the game, so effectively it was a promotion eliminator. Even more amazingly, if the game at Mount Pleasant ended in a draw, both sides would miss out on promotion if London defeated Carlisle! Plenty to play for then, and plenty for the mathematicians in the crowd to be concerned with!
So the scene was set. A capacity 4,500 fans packed into the famous Mount Pleasant stadium, with fans of both sides not wanting to miss a potential promotion party. Amazingly, the scoreboard role remained redundant for the first forty minutes as the two sides returned to the dressing rooms still with all to play for. The defensive effort on both sides was formidable, with nobody wanting to be responsible for their line being breached.
The fiftieth minute of the game saw the 45 year old former Great Britain International Jeff Grayshon introduced to the fray by Batley coach David Ward. Expected to add extra steel and experience for the last half hour, Grayshon was instead sent off in controversial fashion only three minutes after replacing Wayne Heron. Instead of deflating the Gallant Youths, Grayshon’s dismissal seemed to galvanise Batley, as they pulled together and upped the tempo and expanse of their game.
The clock kept ticking, and still the score remained 0-0. With neither defence looking like wilting, Batley full-back Simon Wilson slotted over a drop goal with ten minutes remaining, to give the Mount Pleasant side an unlikely 1-0 lead. This seemed to give Batley another big lift as two minutes later a try was finally scored as Glen Tomlinson and Darren Moxon combined for Tomlinson to run in a four pointer. Wilson failed to convert, but with less than ten minutes now remaining, Batley led 5-0 and promotion was looking more and more likely.
Doncaster had other ideas, and whether it was the fatigue of only having twelve men, or the pressure getting to them, Batley started to make errors. After holding out Matautia and Pennant, the Batley defence could do nothing as Brendan Carlyle stepped and touched down close to the posts. Rocky Turner converted and the tide had turned. Now Donny were 6-5 up and looking promoted. Batley launched one final attack, but a dropped pass saw Turner pick up and race away to clinch the game for Doncaster, along with promotion.
The final score of 10-5 reflected the closeness of the game and indeed the closeness of the promotion chase. Workington won easily at Bramley, as expected, to seal the title but promotion was a Championship in itself for everyone at Tattersfield.
April 24th 1994 was a day which long-time Doncaster fans never felt they would experience and after the years of disappointment and failure, the highs that Doncaster supporters felt in season 1993/94 must surely be up there with the best experiences of any supporter in the world of sport. Coach Tony Fisher and the players involved that day will go down in Doncaster folklore forever.
Doncaster: Brendan Carlyle; Dave Evans, Rocky Turner, Vila Matautia, Max Tomlinson; Tony Zelei, Andy Gascoigne; Glynn Lingard, John Evans, Tony Bowes, Audley Pennant, Sonny Whakarau, Tony Miller. Subs: Jamie Bloem & Richard Pell.
Batley: Simon Wilson; Gary Thornton, Darren Moxon, Jimmy Irvine, Steve Walker; Michael Booth, Glen Tomlinson; Andy Parkinson, Mark Scott, Richard Brook, Wayne Heron, Tony Walton, Mick Cameron. Subs: Shaun Wilkinson, Jeff Grayshon.
The final table:
P W D L F A P
1. Workington T 30 22 2 6 760 331 46
2. Doncaster 30 22 1 7 729 486 45
3. London C 30 21 2 7 842 522 44
4. Batley 30 21 1 8 707 426 43
5. Huddersfield 30 20 0 10 661 518 40
6. Keighley C 30 19 1 10 856 472 39
7. Dewsbury 30 18 1 11 766 448 37
8. Rochdale H 30 18 0 12 704 532 36
9. Ryedale Y 30 17 1 12 662 516 35
10. Whitehaven 30 14 4 12 571 437 32
11. Barrow 30 13 1 16 581 743 27
12. Swinton 30 11 0 19 528 681 22
13. Carlisle BR 30 9 0 21 540 878 18
14. Hunslet 30 3 1 26 445 814 7
15. Bramley 30 3 0 27 376 957 6
16. Highfield 30 1 1 18 267 1234 3