Doncaster Knights continue to be at home on the road

The return of captain Michael Hills has contributed to Knights upturn in form.
The return of captain Michael Hills has contributed to Knights upturn in form.

Doncaster Knights’ Championship play-off hopes look brighter after last weekend's games.

Both third-placed Knights and Ealing cemented their top-four places while Jersey's win at fifth-placed Cornish Pirates on Sunday not only served to help their cause but also helped both the South Yorkshire and London clubs.

“We are five points clear of Pirates with four games to go and if we beat both them and Jersey in the run-in that should be good enough to secure our play-off place,” said director of rugby Clive Griffiths.

“Pirates down there is going to be huge.

“Like us last year they have the full package having made changes at the top and coaches Alan Paver and Gavin Cattle have done a fantastic job.”

With the play-off format being scrapped at the end of the season in favour of a first-past-the-post system, Griffiths expects an almighty effort from the likes of second-placed Yorkshire Carnegie given that it could be their best chance in the foreseeable future of returning to the top flight.

But he added: “Carnegie have lost their last three and if they also get beaten by London Irish in their B&I Cup quarter-final this weekend they could be lacking confidence when they play us on Sunday week.”

Although he will look to put home advantage to good use in front of the Sky cameras, in the club’s first home game in six weeks, given the way Knights are playing on the road Griffiths would have no worries if the game was at Headingley.

Knights have won their last four Championship games on the road during which time they’ve scored 140 points - a stark contrast to their record in the first half of the campaign when they picked up a solitary away win away at bottom club Richmond.

“People have also got to remember that we were without Michael Hills, our captain and our leader on the field, for the whole of the first half of the season and we also lost Alex Shaw,” said Griffiths.

“We also lost several other key players from last season’s successful squad.”

Griffiths is not one for looking back – although the last minute home defeat to Ealing last month still rankles - and is already looking towards next season and is pleased to have retained the services of three key backs.

One man who won’t be at Castle Park next season, however, is fans’ favourite Latu Makaafi. The flanker was the club’s top try-scorer in their record-breaking 2015/16 campaign but has not been as influential this season for a variety of reasons.

“Latu has proved a great servant but at this stage of his career the move to Coventry next season is a good one for him,” said Griffiths.