BIG MATCH PREVIEW - Doncaster Knights
by PETER WOODROOFE
Tilt at Knights
The Moseley squad and travelling faithful sally forth on Saturday to joust with the Doncaster Knights at their Castle Park . It will be a hard battle for Moseley against opposition which has twenty-two professionals in its ranks and currently lies third in National One, albeit eleven points behind Earth Titans.
The Doncaster standard is likely to reign supreme, but two results in encounters against the Knights will be encouraging. On our first visit to Castle Park in 2003-4, when both clubs were in National Two, the Moseley side was starting to exert influence on the game when player/coach STEVE OJOMOH, having his best game for the club, was injured. Even so, Moseley still only lost a very competitive game 20-18.
In the following season at Bournbrook, on 11 December 2004, came one of Moseley’s ‘champagne moments’ when a first defeat of the season was inflicted upon Doncaster by 21-20, - an outstanding performance full of resilience and concentration. To win any kind of reward from Saturday’s game, the Moseley players will have to show those same qualities and take any chance which comes their way.
Doncaster RFC was founded in 1875 and moved from ground to ground until settling at Armthorpe Road in the 1950s on a ground that consisted of one pitch, two changing rooms and a small clubhouse facility. Still located at Armthorpe Road , the ground is now called “ Castle Park ”, with a capacity of 5,000, a clubhouse, conference centre, function rooms, four full-size pitches, junior and mini-rugby pitches and upgraded floodlights. All-in-all an impressive complex, financed in part by a Lottery grant, and ready to meet the criteria of Premiership rugby.
To reach this point in its history, Doncaster Rugby Union had to survive the broken-time dispute in 1893, when Northern clubs broke away from the Rugby Union to form the Northern Union , later the Rugby League. The current Rugby League club was founded in 1951-2, nicknamed Dons. The Union side was nicknamed Donny’s, but now Knights has come into the equation.
Up the ladder
There were two opportunities for a club such as Doncaster to progress up the ladder to senior club status. The RFU Senior Cup was the first from 1971-2, where entry into the competition by means of progress in the County Cup Competition or Merit Tables.
Doncaster first qualified in 1997-8 when reaching North One in the League structure which started in 1987-88. The club’s best performance in the RFU Senior Cup was in its first season Round 4 in the Tetley’s Bitter Cup was reached, after defeating Scunthorpe away 23-6, Nottingham away 24-20, Tynedale home 24-11, before losing to Richmond away 58-8, the heaviest Cup defeat.
Entry to the competition is more often than not dependent upon League status. Last season in National One, the Knights were exempt to Round Five of the Powergen Trophy when they lost at Redruth 18-11. This season, they reached the quarter-final of the EDF Energy National trophy, losing 10-13 to Cornish Pirates at Castle Park when JAMES MOORE dropped a forty metre goal in the seventy-seventh minute to inflict a narrow defeat on the Knights in a closely contested game. They had previously defeated Rosslyn Park 62-7 at Castle Park .
So Doncaster Knights’ impact was through the League structure and is a story of steady progress. They started League rugby in 1987-88 in Yorkshire Two, and by 1999-2000 had reached National Three North after four promotions.
It was then that the club’s ambition was demonstrated by the signing of JOHN LILEY, formerly of Leicester, Moseley and Worcester, who scored 279 points, 244 and a club and personal record 359 points in their promotion season to National Two, 2001-2. Another inspirational signing in 2000-01 was DEREK EVES from Coventry , who was made Director of Rugby in the following season. ROB LILEY. JOHN’S brother, was signed from Wakefield in 2002-3, Doncaster’s first season in National Two, becoming top points scorer in that season with 196. Doncaster finished seventh, then fourth, and in 2004-5 won promotion to National One.
In his career, 1999-2003 winger CHRIS CONWAY scored a club career record of fifty-nine tries, of which twenty four were in 2001-2 in the promotion season from National Three North, and nineteen were in 1999-2000. DEREK EVES was leading try scorer in 2000-01 with thirteen, matched CONWAY ’S twenty four tries in 2001-2, a club season’s record, and eleven tries in Doncaster ’s first season in National Two. ROB LILEY scored a club career record of 1013 points 2002-6, scored in National Two, and last season in National One, 128 points. Tremendous vale! Inspired signings contributing to Doncaster ’s progress up the League ladder.
Moseley first met Doncaster in National Two League rugby in 2003-4 as aforementioned. Before Doncaster won promotion, the clubs met four times, Doncaster winning three and Moseley one. In Doncaster ’s first season in National One, the club finished tenth, a fine achievement, judging from other clubs which have found the move to the top League below the Premiership difficult to say the least.
KINGSLEY JONES, a former Welsh international with one hundred caps, and who captained Wales against South Africa in 1998 and had had spells with Gloucester and Worcester, succeeded EVES as Director of Rugby. He was followed by South African PIETER MULLER, who was replaced in February 2006 with a group of senior players who inspired the injury ravaged squad to five wins out of the last seven games, including a one-point home win over Rotherham Titans.
The new Director of Rugby, appointed this season, is CLIVE GRIFFITHS, the former Swansea full-back and Wales Defence Coach supported by a new player-coach JASON FORSTER, from Newport Gwent Dragons, who was joint top try scorer in the Celtic League last season. His try-scoring exploits have continued this season, being the top try scorer to date in National One with twenty-three.
Newcomers signed this season by the ambitious club include, in additions to GRIFFITHS and FORSTER, their leading points scorer to date this season, fly-half MARK WOODROW, with 183. Others, include wingers PAUL BAILEY from Saracens and ANTHONY CARTER from Earth Titans, centre SPENCER DAVEY from Bath, WES DAVIES, an experienced utility back from Cornish Pirates, scrum-half BEN JONES from Northampton and the much-travelled loquacious scrum-half DAVE SCULLY from Rotherham and Otley.
A recent signing has been fly-half CERITH REES on loan from the French club Albi, who has previously been coached by Griffiths . Also signed in 2007 against strong competition, flyer BEN GOLLINGS, the IRB Sevens world record points scorer.
In the pack, newcomers include hooker BEN PHILLIPS from Pontypridd, American international lock LUKE GROSS, 6’ 8’’ from Newcastle Falcons and Harlequins, Llanelli, Roma and Rotherham , a dedicated itinerant, No 8 AGLEN WILSON ex-Otley, prop JOHN RAWSON from Leicester and the aforementioned JASON FORSTER. A late signing has been lock BRYAN GRIFFITHS from Newport Gwent Dragons as cover.
They join centres JOHN CANNON, twelve League appearances last season scoring five tries and BRAD HUNT, thirteen appearances, one try last season, winger DONAVAN van VUUREN, nine tries last season and top try scorer in the promotion season from National Two, twenty tries, and experienced forwards, props SIMON BUNTING and NGAZU TAU, locks GLEN KENWORTHY and DAN COOK, and back-row players RUSSELL EARNSHAW, OLLIE COOK and SIMON GRAINGER with newcomer Fijian NATANI TALEI at No 8 replacing GLEN WILSON. Doncaster therefore has an altogether formidable squad against a Moseley squad desperate for points on Saturday.
Doncaster is lying third in National One to date this season behind Leeds Tykes and Earth Titans. At Christmas the club was top but a 9-6 reverse at Bedford, a home 20-20 draw against London Welsh, a 26-23 loss at Cornish Pirates and 16-30 home loss to Leeds Tykes dented, or rather ended Doncaster’s promotion hopes.
Last week the Knights defeated Pertemps Bees 62-25 in a game where they led 24-20 at half-time, Bees got their try bonus point, while the Knights blitzed the Bees for the rest of the game. Knights’ tries were scored by winger BAILEY(2), hooker PHILLIPS (2), No 8 TALEI (2), flanker FORSTER and replacement prop one try apiece, with GOLLINGS, playing at full-back, converting four and WOODROW three and kicking a penalty goal.
Thus, Moseley’s task at Castle Park is a daunting one to say the least. Moseley, after a week’s lay-off, made a customary slow start last week with Exeter Chiefs scoring the bonus-winning try after thirty-five minutes. Moseley, playing against the wind and slope in the first half, improved after the interval, but the Chiefs’ six tries and the perfect kicking of TONY YAPP, seven from seven, told its own story. Otley’s 66-8 defeat at Bedford was Moseley’s only consolation, but this week the result of Otley’s match against Newbury is vital for both the clubs in the bottom three of National One.
To the intrepid band who make the journey to Castle Park , thank you for your support. The squad appreciates it.
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