Doncaster Knights backs and skills coach Paul Cooke disagrees with the old adage that the league table does not lie and claims the team is not playing like a bottom-four side.
Speaking after Saturday’s spirited 26-17 Championship defeat to title favourites London Irish, which left the Castle Park side still languishing in the bottom three, Cooke said: “Based on the last couple of games I think the league table is lying to us a little bit with all the effort the boys are putting in. Not just the efforts on game-day but the effort to get on the training field for a certain number of individuals with illness over the last few weeks has been phenomenal.
“We didn’t get a result but I couldn’t be more proud of the players today.
“We’d not been able to practice during the week and we’d not been able to put a fifteen together until the team run on Friday morning and we were still trying to get another hooker registered on Friday afternoon (with both Ben Hunter and Dave Nelson being out) and we couldn’t do that.
“It’s not ideal when you are playing against the best team in the league.
“We went four (backs) and three (forwards) on the bench because we had no (other) forwards. We only had 23 fit players. Second-rower Morgan Eames played when he probably shouldn’t have done and prop Joe Sproston was on the bench and probably shouldn’t have been. That tells you everything about the group of players and how hard they are trying to get us out of this.
“The backs are coming out of a hole; they are probably three quarters way out of it and the only thing that will get us out is a result,” said Cooke. “The players are certainly fighting and we’ll see where we get to this weekend at London Scottish.”
He added: “We haven’t been defending great but we’ve not had blokes who are training to defend due to illness or injuries.
“We defended better today but we still conceded four tries. They had enough ball in the second half to score another four tries but we defended manfully.”
Cooke praised the side’s never-say-die attitude.
“We were still fighting for a bonus point at the end and it shows what the players are about,” he said. “I think we deserved more out of the game just as we did the previous game at Bedford but we’ve not got it so we move on.
“Today’s performance should give the players some confidence. We probably need to give them a bit of energy and we’ll discuss the make-up of this week’s training sessions and if we can get more blokes on the training field to practice then we’ll certainly be a better team.”