Half term report on Doncaster Knights who start 2022 on top of the Championship
Doncaster Knights sit proudly at the top of the Championship heading into 2022 – although staying there will be a very difficult task.
Steve Boden’s men are without a game this weekend and saw their New Year’s Day fixture against Bedford Blues postponed due to Covid.
They return to action on January 15 with a tough trip to third-placed Jersey Reds.
Knights are currently level on points with Ealing Trailfinders but the Londoners have two games in hand.
Jersey and fourth-placed Cornish Pirates also have games in hand and better points-per-game ratios than Doncaster.
Nonetheless, it has still been an excellent first half of the season for Knights as they look to build on their third place finish during the Covid-shortened 2020/21 campaign.
Most notably, Knights remain unbeaten at Castle Park where they have won six out of six with victories against London Scottish, Jersey, Richmond, Ealing, Nottingham and Coventry.
This week our Knights correspondent Jamie Crawford consulted with members of the club’s unofficial fans forum to collate his half term report...
What's your assessment of the season so far from a Doncaster Knights perspective?
Ideally the team would have been together for at least three weeks prior to the season starting but signings rolled into the season itself which meant the Knights had to recognise where the strengths and weaknesses of new players were before they could be introduced into the team.
The increased financial constraints and unknowns due to Covid reduced the pre-season friendlies to just one.
Therefore it took a few games for the team to get to know each other’s style of play.
Knights are now a cohesive unit rather than being a group of individuals.
The season is developing well. It is a young squad and they are beginning to gel as a team now, which is exciting.
Errors and penalties are reducing and they are beginning to score more bonus points.
There is a good blend of forward and backs play dependent, largely, on the opposition or the weather conditions.
The exception to this was in the defeat at Cornish Pirates where there was no obvious signs of a game plan.
How would you describe the brand of rugby that Steve Boden has got the team playing?
Adaptability is the key word under Steve Boden.
Whether it is open rugby, tuck it up your shirt and run, kick for territory or a tight rolling maul, he wants his team to adapt when needed.
Steve and his team are doing their homework on the opposition to come up with an effective game plan which the lads are now carrying out.
Winning is the key and sometimes you have to win ugly by using tactics such as slowing play and taking the points when given the opportunity.
Knights appear to be developing a free-flowing and entertaining style that leads to bonus points from scoring four or more tries, while also maintaining their excellent defence. They have conceded the fewest points in the Championship at home.
Which game would you pick out as Knights' best performance of the season so far and why?
The 22-5 win over Ealing was the best performance.
To beat the league leaders, who were unbeaten since they lost by three points in their second game, was remarkable. The defensive effort was superb.
Knights stood up physically, refused to be bullied and adapted better to the windy conditions.
The 27-24 victory at home to Jersey was also notable for the solid defence and the way the tactics really came together on the day.
Who has been Knights' most consistent performer and which player do you most enjoy watching?
The interlinking play between Jack Spittle and Maliq Holden has been a pleasure to watch.
They are both effective tacklers, rapid and always willing to chase the box kick.
Forwards Conor Davidson, George Edgson and John Kelly have been among the most consistent performers.
George stands out because he has scored five tries this season including a hat trick.
Sam Olver is another dependable tackler, calm under pressure and he is the fourth top points-scorer in the Championship.
Knights start 2022 on top of the Championship. Is promotion a realistic aim and where do you think they will finish in the table?
There is a question mark over whether Leicester Tigers will be punished for historical financial infringements and, if so, whether this could lead to two teams being promoted to the Premiership this season?
I’m not sure that this squad is ready for promotion but I hope to be proved wrong if indeed it happens. It is not beyond the realms of possibility, given that Knights have beaten promotion favourites Ealing and third-placed Jersey.
However, realistically I think the Knights will end the season in third or fourth place which is still fantastic.
Contributors (Fans Forum avatar names): Jamie Crawford, Wild Bill, Sean O'Loinsigh (John), Arthur Leach, Sir Real of the KORT (Knights of the Roundy Table)