Doncaster Knights: '˜Championship will be tougher than ever' - Clive Griffiths
Doncaster Knights again face one of their longest trips of the season on the opening day of the new Championship campaign.
Knights kicked off the 2017-18 season with a trip to Jersey and came away with the spoils and director of rugby Clive Griffiths would no doubt settle for a similar result on Sunday at Cornish Pirates.
The Cornish club made a mixed start to last season but last lost in a league match back in mid-February at Nottingham despite a very testing run-in and only finished one point adrift of third-placed Bedford Blues
“Pirates are looking very strong again this season,” said Griffiths. “They’ve kept the nucleus of the side and also added some new signings so they’ll be tough to beat.
“It’s probably not an ideal way to start the season but I’d prefer to be going down there in the early part of the season than in the middle of winter when their pitch traditionally gets very heavy.”
Pirates proved something of a bogey side for Knights for several years but the Castle Park side had looked to have put that behind them going into last season.
But they produced one of their worst performances at Castle Park of the season when going down 46-29 at home to Pirates in October.
They were, however, unlucky not to win the return at Mennaye Field in March in a game played on a gluepot of a pitch.
In what was their first game following the death of prop Ian Williams, Knights led 12-0 at the break and were never behind until Pirates scored an 80th minute try from a 5m lineout to claim a 22-19 win.
“I said before last Saturday’s game that I wouldn’t be bothered about losing against Falcons as long as we beat Pirates and that still stands,” said Griffiths.
“Pirates have had some good results in their pre-season games and will start favourites on Saturday’s showing but I hope that our boys rediscover themselves and that it will be all right on the day on Sunday.”
Griffiths feels that both clubs will be in the mix for a top-four spot, in what he predicts will be an even tougher league than last season with newcomers Coventry having spent a lot on recruitment and London Scottish having returned to a full-time status.
But he says he can’t look past relegated London Irish and last season’s runners-up Ealing – who have again invested heavily in new players during the summer – when it comes to the title race.