1st XV Match Preview V Doncaster Knights (Home) Sat 26/09/2009 



by Joe Heaton

MOSELEY v  Doncaster Knights - RFU Championship, at Billesley Common - Saturday, September 26th 2009, k. o. 3pm (but come for lunch!)

For the second week in succession Moseley’s Championship match is at home, this time against Doncaster Knights. Unusually our two clubs will be competing for the dubious honour of propping up the embryonic Championship as both are without a win so far.

Last Saturday Moseley lost a third consecutive match, against Nottingham, 20-31. Admittedly, all three matches have been against teams, Exeter, Cornish Pirates and Nottingham, close to the top of the table, but that is life.

As the team settles down following the horrendous early season injury list, there have been signs of improvement, although early defensive errors are still costing us dearly.

The Knights also lost at home 10-21 to Cornish Pirates (their two previous defeats were 20-32 by Exeter and 12-26 by Bedford). Like Moseley, they have played three top clubs so far and their present bottom position in no way reflects their potential; after all, they were fourth in National League One last season.

Doncaster sits at the heart of the road and rail communication system of north eastern England. It is 20 miles from both Rotherham and Sheffield and straddles the South Yorkshire coalfields. The town is the largest in England not to have been awarded city status, although Greater Doncaster has a population of 286,000.

The main claims to fame of the town’s much contracted industry are its former locomotive building and repair shops, which built the steam engines of the ‘Mallard’ & ‘Flying Scotsman’ for the London North Eastern Railway.

The area suffered badly from the rundown of the coal industry in the 1970s/80s, but, profiting from its superb location, was successfully regenerated until the start of the present recession, which has caused a major setback.

Doncaster RFC was founded in 1875 and remained a regional club until reaching National League Two in 2002-03 and League One in 2005-06.

The club’s impact on League One has been significant. In their first season at the higher level the Knights were 10th but in 2006-07 they were 3rd and in 2007-08, 4th. Last season they were 4th again. No side, promoted from National League Two, did better in League One so quickly, except previously relegated Premiership sides. The Knights’ leading points scorer last season was Jamie Lennard, with 298 points, which placed him top of National League One’s table of leading points scorers. Wes Davies was their leading try scorer with 13 tries.

The Doncaster club now plays at Castle Park in Armthorpe Road. Its ground, built in part from Lottery funds, has a capacity of 5,000, of which 1,600 can be seated under cover. The Director of Rugby is Lynn Howells, who is assisted by Justin Bishop. Two seasons ago he made a considerable number of successful changes in his squad with a view to reducing the average age of a squad which was beginning to show the effects of time and long service.

The comments of Ian Smith, the Moseley coach, on the season thus far, as made to Brian Dick of The Birmingham Post after the match against Nottingham, are pertinent to Saturday’s game.

“We showed anxiety and frustration that came about by what was happening at the breakdown. The new directive that allows a tackler to keep his hands on the ball during a ruck, provided he has moved and remains on his feet, had added to the tactical conservation that characterised much of the play so far this season.

There has been so much slowing of the ball, tacklers are not rolling away, players are coming around the sides, all sorts of things are going on.” He is particularly concerned about the way in which the breakdown is being officiated: “Referees are being soft on repeat offenders who kill the ball by lying over it at rucks and allowing them to continue law breaking.”

All very true, and the Moseley players will have to keep calm and adapt, as best they can, to the way the referee is officiating the game. The first shoots of the team coming together were evident on Saturday. Let’s hope that the continual improvement will result in a win on Saturday.

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