Doncaster Knights: How winning National One meant more than a trophy

Champions! Photo: Ben Sidney.
Champions! Photo: Ben Sidney.

Hearing fans in full voice singing ‘We Are The Champions’ on the supporters’ coach after the Knights had clinched a historic league trophy, it was clear just how much it actually meant to win the title.

As the champagne flowed and celebrations ensued on the sunkissed pitch at Blackheath, following Doncaster’s crucial 38-20 final day victory which secured the National One title, it was also apparent just how much it meant to the players and coaching staff as well.

Doncaster’s leading try-scorer Tyson Lewis hugged his family following the final whistle.

Bruno Bravo sported the biggest smile while singing ‘Championees’ through his brightly-coloured mouth-guard.

And Mat Clark shared a joke with the club president and chairman Tony De Mulder.

These were all memorable moments which brought the curtain down on an energy-sapping 2013-14 campaign.

Yes, Doncaster might be a full-time club; the only one in National One. They were the overwhelming favourites to bounce straight back to the Championship.

But an unprecedented amount of injuries during the first half of the season and a handful of tricky away days meant it has been a far from easy journey back to the second tier.

At Blackheath on Saturday, the pressure was on. But Clive Griffiths’ men held their nerve.

And the post-match celebrations provided a small snippet into just how much relief the squad felt following the conclusion of an epic season.

Leading from the front, Matt Challinor has skippered the side superbly through a campaign that saw the Knights wear a target on their backs, as every other National One opponent attempted to take their scalp.

Because of that, Challinor admitted that Saturday’s final day victory over Blackheath - which meant Doncaster held off a determined effort by second placed Rosslyn Park to outdo them - was made all the more sweeter following a gruelling 30-game campaign.

Following the final whistle, the influential captain told the Free Press: “I’m struggling for the words really.

“I think it’s well deserved, we’ve had a tough season with every obstacle you can think of with injuries and we’ve had a lot of bad luck.

“But the lads have come through, you can’t knock anybody.

“The endeavour, the enthusiasm from everybody has been smashing.

“We can relax now and have a good few weeks enjoying ourselves because we haven’t been able to relax all season.

“We’re all over the moon.”

He added: “When we first started the season, we knew it was going to be tough.

“If you look at the lads, we pretty much assembled a new squad at the beginning of the season.

“I know everybody says we’re full-time and we should be winning the league but we’ve had a target on us all season.

“We’ve been everybody’s cup final and to come through it, we’re over the moon.”

Fan Lisa Davis, of Edenthorpe, said: “I’m absolutely ecstatic. We’ve had some bad times over the last couple of years but this is great - we’re going up!”

Supporter Sean White, added: “Awesome season, we have our club back!”

Noel Senior, one of the club’s longest-serving members who also played for Doncaster, said: “We have overcome injuries and still managed to come away with the end result and gain promotion.

“Players like Adam Kettle (who will now retire) will be able to look back on these moments, tell their grandchildren and nobody can take that away from them.”