Doncaster Knights signed a raft of new faces in preparation for the 2020-21 season and look equipped to be one of the clubs capable of challenging towards the top end of the table. New faces have arrived from a variety of locations, including other Championship clubs, the Welsh Premiership and a number of English Premiership academies.
They are currently sitting on two wins from their opening two matches of this short season, although neither victory could be described as comfortable. In Round 1 they needed a late Sam Olver kick to take the result at Ampthill, while last week they were impressive in building a good first half lead, before having to hold on for a one-point win over visitors Coventry.
Irrespective of how they got there, a 100% record is always worth shooting at and backs coach, Ryan Lamb, says that he and the squad are looking forward to the opportunity.
“Doncaster are a very good side,” he said. “They are unbeaten and they are coming to us. It’s a great challenge for the boys to show what they can do and it’s one that I’m very excited about.”
To get a result, Hartpury are going to have to perform better than they did in last weekend’s trip to Bedford Blues, which saw a drop-off in levels from the opening day, when the Red & Blacks produced a 38-15 win against Richmond.
“We were, as a group, pretty disappointed with the Bedford performance – particularly in the first half,” said Lamb.
“A lot of the things we did weren’t really recognisable from what we’d been working on, so we’ve been addressing that this week and we expect to see a good reaction against Doncaster.”
“A lot of it comes down to inexperience. We had a period, against Bedford, of about 15 minutes where we basically didn’t see any of the ball. A more experienced side would have just said ‘that’s ok, we’re still very much in the game and we haven’t really fired a shot yet’, whereas I felt we chased it a little bit too much, which just compounded our mistakes and magnified everything.”
“We want to play the brand of rugby that Hartpury have been famous for in the past, which is playing with the ball in hand. But obviously that becomes harder as you go up the levels.
“If you give up turnovers or penalties in that middle third, you end up defending a lot more in your own 22 and that’s when teams can get on top of you. You can find yourself 20 minutes into a match and you’ve conceded two tries and you’re chasing the game. That’s Championship rugby – that’s professional rugby – and the boys need to manage that.”
“I think we’ll get a good reaction this week – we’re at home and the boys are looking forward to it.”
“Traditionally, Doncaster have always had a good set piece but, if you look at the games they’ve played this season, they like to play a bit of rugby as well. They’ve got some good strike runners and they want to get a high tempo into the game.”
“It should be a very exciting match. These are two teams that want to play a bit of rugby and the feeling among the squad is that it’s a challenge we’re all very much looking forward to.”
The Knights could include a number of Hartpury connections, including former student Ben Hunter and back-row forward Sam Graham, who played a number of matches in the Red and Black over the last two seasons whilst on dual registration from his previous club, Bristol Bears. Centre Conor Edwards also played a handful of matches, on loan from the Dragons, in the 2018-19 season.
The game, like all Championship matches, is available to be watched via livestream and supporters should go HERE to gain access.