Pirates will provide big test of Doncaster Knights' title potential

Defeating Championship leaders Ealing Trailfinders must only be the beginning for Doncaster Knights.

Saturday, 4th December 2021, 10:37 am
Billy McBryde scores against Ealing. Photo: Andrew Roe/AHPIX LTD

That is the view of full-back Billy McBryde as Steve Boden’s side look to back up last weekend’s stunning success with victory at fellow high-fliers Cornish Pirates tomorrow.

Many people thought the Championship would be dominated by big-spending Ealing in 2021-22 especially after they racked up a raft of massive wins.

However, the competition has suddenly become intriguing.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

With Cornish having inflicted Trailfinders’ only other loss, Doncaster’s 22-5 win at Castle Park last Saturday has meant Ealing have just a two-point lead ahead of today’s game with Ampthill.

Jersey Reds could have replaced Ealing in top spot but last night’s game at Nottingham was postponed due to Covid in the home camp. There were just five points separating the top four ahead of this round.

Doncaster, in fourth, will usurp third-placed Cornish and Jersey if they prosper tomorrow and Welsh full-back McBryde is keen for them to show their own title potential with a sixth successive triumph.

“Not many teams go to Cornwall and get a good result,” he admitted.

“But we’ve spoken this week about how we’re not going to use that and the travel as any excuses.

“It puts a little bit of motivation in the back of the players’ minds that we know how good we can play by beating Ealing. It was a great performance.

“But for us what separates the good teams and the really good teams is if we can back it up.

“And what better way for us to back it up than Pirates away? It’s a challenge the boys are relishing.

“We have some confidence in the squad now after winning five in a row and we’ll look to execute a really good game-plan once again. Don’t get me wrong, Pirates are going to be itching to get back out there after losing (15-5 at Jersey) last weekend so we’re expecting a really tough, tight affair.”

McBryde, who scored an excellent try against Ealing, admits the South Yorkshire club are facing a “massive period” of their season which could help decide whether they can push and contest for that sole promotion slot.

“We’ve got seven games in a row so it will really challenge the depth of the squad,” he said.

“But teams have competed against Ealing, such as Pirates who beat them at home and us last weekend, while Jersey were very close as well.

“But it’s about focusing on our results and going into that Christmas/New Year period picking up as many as we can and bonus points – that’s really what separates the teams: bonus points.

“We haven’t picked up a lot of them yet. If we can keep on building on these performances, we can put more and more pressure on the top teams like Ealing.”

Doncaster, who have lost just twice and yesterday saw Leicester Tigers lock Thom Smith join until the end of the season, had been searching for an 80-minute performance and that arrived a week ago.

Reflecting on the Ealing success, McBryde, 25, said; “The conditions were very poor but we played some really smart stuff.

“It probably wasn’t an attractive spectacle to watch but for 80 minutes we stuck to it. We were very smart with how we carried the ball, how we kicked and how we just broke Ealing down with our physicality and our carrying on both sides of the ball. We maintained that level of intensity for 80 which was really good to see. We stuck to the game-plan and it was near perfect.

“A bonus point would have been even better but any win over a side like Ealing is a good result.”

The former Scarlets and Wales Under-20s international seems to have made the No 15 jersey his own after switching from fly-half.

He continued: “It was a bit of a shaky start to the season. I got left out after the third game when results hadn’t gone our way.

“But in the last four games I feel like I’ve picked up consistently with my performances. It’s quite handy to have two first receivers on the field.

“Obviously, I’m naturally a ten and I never envisaged becoming full-back but I’ve been playing at 15 for the last year and a half really. As long as I’m continuing to help the team and doing my job as best as I can I’m happy with it.”