The last 7 major rugby league games played at Doncaster’s Eco-Power Stadium and what happened

Ben Olawumi
Eco-Power Stadium, Doncaster RLFC

A general view of the Eco-Power Stadium, the home of Doncaster RLFC

Wigan Warriors and Hull KR will square off at Doncaster’s Eco-Power Stadium on May 18 in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup, and that venue announcement got us thinking… which other major rugby league games has the ground hosted?

Obviously, Championship outfit Doncaster play there themselves, and lifted the League 1 play-off trophy there last autumn.

Sheffield Eagles also ground shared at the 15,231-capacity venue for a brief period… but in terms of big, big events, here’s a look at the most recent seven…

October 31, 2022: Papua New Guinea 36-0 Wales

Papua New Guinea celebrate a try
Papua New Guinea celebrate a try against Wales at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup

At the delayed 2021 Rugby League World Cup, the Eco-Power was the venue for three different group stage games. This was the last of those, and actually the very last group game of the men’s tournament. Sealing 2nd-place in group D, and with it progression into the knockouts, PNG hammered Wales in front of 6,968 fans.

Nene Macdonald, Rodrick Tai, Lachlan Lam, Wellington Albert, Emmanuel Waine, Nixon Putt and Rhyse Martin all in the Kumuls‘ starting 13. Now-Castleford Tigers ace Putt scored two of their six tries, with Leeds Rhinos star Martin perfect with the boot on the night. PNG exited the tournament with defeat to England in the quarter-finals five days later.

October 23, 2022: Samoa 72-4 Greece

Eight days prior, Matt Parish’s Samoa had swept aside Greece in the second of their games in group A, responding to a heavy defeat against England at St James’ Park in the tournament opener the week before.

Tim Lafai (2), Fa’amanu Brown & Jarome Luai were among the try-scorers in front of a crowd of 4,415, with Greece‘s only points coming through Lachlan Ilias’ four-pointer. Samoa would – of course – go on to get their revenge in beating England at the semi-final stage, eventually beaten in the final by Australia.

October 17, 2022: France 34-12 Greece

France v Greece - 2021 World Cup
An action shot from France v Greece at the delayed 2021 Rugby League World Cup

Steve Georgallis’ Greece were no strangers to the Eco-Power having also played their opening game of the tournament there, scoring more points but still being comfortably beaten by a France team littered with Catalans Dragons stars of past and present in front of 4,182 spectators.

France – who also didn’t progress through to the knockout stages – got their only win of the tournament with Benjamin Jullien (2), Jordan Dezaria, Tony Gigot & Arthur Mourgue on the scoresheet. Mourgue also kicked seven from seven with the boot on an evening which saw Nick Mougious & Siteni Taukamo cross for Greece.

July 29, 2017: Hull FC 43-24 Leeds Rhinos

The last major domestic cup game at the then-known Keepmoat Stadium came seven years ago, when Lee Radford’s Hull FC booked their trip to Wembley for the second year running with victory over Leeds in the Challenge Cup semi-finals, a last-four tie watched by 14,526 in South Yorkshire.

Following a first-half brace from Ryan Hall for the Rhinos, Hull twice came from behind, and took the tie by storm come the second half. Marc Sneyd’s drop goal took the score out to 25-12 on 55 minutes, and after Kallum Watkins had gone over for Leeds, FC scored three tries in 10 minutes to seal the seal. Radford’s side would lift the cup for the second year on the bounce.

July 29, 2016: Wigan Warriors 12-16 Hull FC

Sam Tomkins
Sam Tomkins sits dejected on the pitch at the Keepmoat Stadium after Wigan Warriors’ defeat to Hull FC in the 2016 Challenge Cup semi-finals

A Challenge Cup semi-final was played at the Keepmoat two years on the spin, and both involved Hull, with the venue somewhat of a positive omen en-route to back-to-back cup lifts. The first of those, in 2016, saw the Black & Whites get the better of Wigan at the semi-final stage in a cracker, though just 10,488 were in attendance.

Having led 8-2, the Warriors went behind for the first time when Dom Manfredi fumbled a high bomb from Sneyd in their in-goal area and Fetuli Talanoa grounded. After Sneyd had added a penalty to take the score out to 16-8, Wigan hit back through Willie Isa, but couldn’t find another try and Hull held on to set up a final against Warrington Wolves, which they would go on to win.

October 20, 2013: New Zealand 50-0 Cook Islands

The Keepmoat wasn’t used in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, with The Shay in Halifax among those given the nod instead. Prior to the tournament though, New Zealand and the Cook Islands did play out a warm-up game, with the Kiwis comfortably coming out on top.

Elijah Taylor scored one of eight tries, with the likes of Krisnan Inu, Dean Whare & Sam Kasiano also in the Kiwis‘ starting line-up. Stephen Kearney’s side would go on to be beaten in the World Cup final by Australia, while the Cook Islands failed to make it out of group D, finishing above Wales but being pipped to qualification for the knockout stages by the United States.

August 6, 2011: Castleford Tigers 8-10 Leeds Rhinos

Kallum Watkins try celebration
Leeds Rhinos celebrate Kallum Watkins’ try in their 2011 Challenge Cup semi-final against Castleford Tigers

Last on our ‘Doncaster trip down memory lane’ is another Challenge Cup semi-final, though you have to go back to 2011 for it! This all-Yorkshire affair – which had 13,158 in attendance – saw Leeds come out on top in dramatic fashion.

When Kirk Dixon kicked a 71st minute penalty, Castleford were six points to the good and looked likely to progress into the final, until Kallum Watkins hit back with a try, and Kevin Sinfield’s touchline conversion took the tie into golden point extra time. Three minutes into that, Sinfield kicked a penalty to win it for the Rhinos, who would be beaten by Wigan under the Wembley arch.