Doncaster Knights turn thoughts towards next season after finishing on a high

Doncaster Knights completed a successful season by winning their eighth Championship game and with it a maximum of five points guaranteeing they would end the campaign in third place behind Saracens and Ealing Trailfinders.

By Guy Williams
Monday, 31st May 2021, 10:24 am
Updated Monday, 31st May 2021, 10:55 am
Matt Challinor against Nottingham in his final game for Doncaster Knights (Picture: Gary Longbottom)
Matt Challinor against Nottingham in his final game for Doncaster Knights (Picture: Gary Longbottom)

The Castle Park club’s efforts in the league, cut short because of Covid, have been consistently impressive, losing only twice to the two top teams who will contest the play-offs.

Coach Steve Boden is now concentrating on next season and expects to sign up to 12 new players, some of whom will be announced shortly.

As new ones arrive and current squad members re-sign such as forwards Guido Volpi, Will Holling, Sam Graham and George Roberts, and backs Connor Edwards and Billy McBryde, valued players are leaving like Matt Challinor – 260-plus appearances in 11 seasons – Robin Hislop, who’s joining Wasps, and Ben Hunter after more than 160 games.

Crowds were back at Castle Park for Doncaster Knights' last game of the season against Nottingham.

As second row Challinor, 37, played his final game in front of a crowd of almost 1,000, the first time spectators had been allowed at the ground for 440 days, he revealed he would be returning to Rotherham Titans, his former club which he left in 2010.

“I’m excited to be going back. Rotherham have put together a strong squad with the idea of getting back into National One,” said Challinor, who played for Rotherham before moving crossing South Yorkshire to Doncaster.

“We will win more games than we lose.

“Matt Smith will be coming with me from the Donny pack. I’ve had a great time at Doncaster, really enjoyed it and I will always remember the reception I got from the crowd when I led the team out in my last match.”

Sadly, the Nottingham clash wasn’t one to remember: little flowing rugby and Doncaster did not perform to their undoubted potential, and at one stage it appeared they might lose, particularly when they were behind 19-14 and finding it hard to make progress.

Nottingham were highly competitive, scoring two excellent tries by centre David Williams and from hooker Jake Farnworth, sprinting 70 yards to touch down.

With five minutes remaining, the scores were level at 24-24, but in the 79th, Doncaster’s replacement scrum-half, Sam Pocklington, showed his strength to beat Nottingham’s defence and grabbed the match winning try.

It was the Knights’ fourth following earlier tries by winger Howard Packman, scrum-half Gus Warr and replacement hooker Will Holling.

Doncaster’s squad – which did tremendously well to match big-money clubs like Ealing Trailfinders and Saracens – have a break for four weeks and then report back for pre-season training on Monday, June 28.

Saracens and Ealing will now contest the two-legged play-off final to determine the team promoted to the Premiership.

The final is scheduled to take place on Saturday, June 12, and Saturday, June 19.

Doncaster Knights: McBryde, Evans, Foley (Newey 78), Edwards, Packman, Olver, Warr (Pocklington 74), Hislop (Cade 65), Hunter (Holling 56), Denman (Jones 50), Challinor (Britton 74), Smith, Graham (Joyce 78), Davies, Volpi.

Nottingham: Hibberd, Stapley, D.Williams, Thacker, Browning, Riddington, Dolly, T.Williams (Sio 43), Farnworth, Bretts (O’Connor 67), Allen (Ramshaw 56), Frost, Ryan (Cox 64), Kirwan, Poullet.

Referee: Michael Hudson.