Ealing v Doncaster Knights - Robin Hislop aims for a glorious treble
It has been a busy week or so for Robin Hislop who hopes to get busier still by upsetting the odds and helping steer Doncaster Knights into the Championship play-offs.
Just a few days after it was announced the loose-head prop had secured a richly-deserved Premiership move to London Wasps next season, his partner Rachel gave birth to their first child Ruby last Saturday.
Today, Hislop is back on the field in one of the most eagerly-awaited games of the season, looking to get his current side a win at leaders Ealing Trailfinders that will take the battle for the top-two right into the final weekend.
“Everything is all happening at once,” he said.
“We’re super excited. I got them both home on Monday.
“It’s amazing (fatherhood). It’s a surreal moment and you can’t really describe it unless you’ve been there yourself. I’m just glad everyone is okay and healthy.
“It means I’ve not trained much this week, though. I only got back in on Wednesday. I was looking forward to that as it is such an exciting week for the club.”
Doncaster, who have excelled in Steve Boden’s first season in charge, have been sat second for much of this truncated campaign but were nudged down into third when Saracens played their game in hand on Monday night, vanquishing Ampthill 69-12.
Most people expected Saracens to sail straight back into the Premiership after relegation but their shock opening day loss at Cornish Pirates quickly reminded the star-studded outfit that matters are not always simple in the second tier.
That said, they have not lost since and victory at Coventry this evening, allied to a win at home to part-timers Hartpury in next weekend’s final round, will see them secure in the two-legged promotion play-off final.
Big-spending Ealing, too, have rarely let up, losing just once and scoring an astonishing 467 points in their nine league outings.
However, few could have expected Doncaster – with a young and revamped squad – to win all but one of their eight games and that is why nothing is yet decided.
Nine points behind Ealing, they face an invidious task, in all likelihood knowing – unless Saracens implode spectacularly – they must secure a bonus point win today and the same from next Saturday’s final game against Nottingham at Castle Park to stand any chance of the top two.
Hislop, 29, said: “It will be tough but it’s not impossible.
“Saracens are an incredibly good outfit and Ealing are an exceptional outfit as well.
“But we’ve earned the right to have something to play for at this stage of the season.
“If we could go down there and get a result that would be brilliant. We’re not really thinking about getting five points – it will be hard enough to win at Ealing.
“But if we’ve 15 or 20 minutes to go and we’re in a position to go for those permutations then God we will go for it.”
Ealing’s only defeat was last month’s 48-20 loss at promotion rivals Saracens.
Hislop conceded: “They are a quality side. You see some of the scores they are putting on teams like Hartpury and Jersey – 60 and 70 points.
“They are a lot better at their place than they are away. That 3G pitch down there is quite an old 3G. I don’t think it’s the best.
“But they train and do everything on that so they are just so used to it. I do think a lot of teams do struggle when they go there but we train on a 3G behind the main pitch at Castle Park.
“And, rather than focus on their game, we’ve looked to try and do what we do well as that’s worked well for us this season.
“The squads we’ve had in previous years at Doncaster, the names have probably been better, but now we have an incredibly tight bunch who work incredibly hard for each other.”
The ex-Edinburgh prop – who had a loan spell at Saracens last year – has been at Doncaster since 2018 but will link up with his former Rotherham Titans coach Lee Blackett at Wasps next term.
Hislop said: “I had a bit of interest from a few Premiership clubs after the Sarries loan but I know Lee very well.
“Also, Rachel and I are god-parents to (Wasps’ ex-Rotherham hooker) Tom Cruse’s daughter.
“He’s one of my best mates. It all just made sense. They play a great brand of rugby and have some really good loose-heads but I’d like to think I can stick my hand up and get some game time as well.”