The Greens travelled to Castle Park with a fairly settled side although the injury to Nick Syddall kept him out of the squad. Tom Hughes however made his first appearance of the season.
The game started in fine weather conditions on a recently re-laid surface. The home boys were first to show their high tempo style, moving the ball about through many phases. The Scunthorpe defence stood firm but without having any worthwhile possession, they were pinned into their own ‘22’ for the first 20 minutes of the match. They gradually made ground into the Phoenix half and following a series of drives, the ball was moved to the right wing where Sam Morgan managed to cross for the try. Paul Cook converted with an excellent strike to put Scunthorpe ahead by 7 points to nil in the 27th minute. Back came the home boys and were rewarded with a penalty just inside the Scunthorpe ‘22’ and whilst the Scunthorpe players questioned what they thought was a harsh decision, quick thinking Phoenix scrumhalf Sam Pocklington, tapped and was on his way to put Will Burden into the right hand corner. Sam Brooke was unable to add the extras, so Scunthorpe remained in front at 7 points to 5 after 32 minutes.
The game ebbed and flowed with defences generally on top, snuffing out any line-breaks by either side. The Greens took advantage of a penalty in mid-field to put the ball into the left hand corner and from the catch & drive, Gareth Mist got the touch-down. Cook was unable to convert but Scunthorpe held a 12 points to 5 lead in the 37th minute. As the first half moved into added time Phoenix managed another try through No.8 Martin Brink. The conversion was missed so that The Greens took a 12 points to 10 advantage into the interval.
Scunthorpe were first to score in the second period when their pack drove play close to the home line for Ben Hyde to add the finishing touch. Cook failed to add the extras but The Greens were in the lead by 17 points to 10, after 10 minutes of the second half.
For Scunthorpe the defining moment arrived in the 17th minute when Brooke chipped over the advancing defence creating a chase into the in goal area. Josh Birch contested for the ball and the Phoenix player knocked on over the line. The Referee’s decision was that Bird had impeded the home player and to the astonishment of the Scunthorpe players and supporters awarded a penalty try and also yellow carded Bird. So, a double whammy for The Greens to absorb with the scoreline at 17 points apiece.
Phoenix took full advantage of their man advantage and score two more tries in quick succession. With Brooke adding one conversion the score-line stood at 29 points to 17 in the 22nd minute of the second half. As Scunthorpe battled back they came close on a number of occasions to getting another score only to loose possession or be penalised for holding on in the tackle. As is often the case when you are chasing the game, it is the opposition that eventually gets the final say and so it was that Phoenix got the final score in the 38th minute with Brooke adding the extras for a 36 points to 17 score-line. The drama continued until the final play of the match as The Greens worked hard for the bonus point try but Will Robinson was tackled into touch at the corner flag.
A salutary lesson on our first visit to play Doncaster Phoenix that game management and ball control is always of the essence. Scunthorpe now await the visit of second placed Peterborough Lions to Heslam Park next Saturday with a tough game in prospect.