DUBLIN-based prop Brian McGovern didn’t expect Doncaster Knights to be bottom of the table at the end of November with just one Championship win to their name when he joined the South Yorkshire club in the summer.
But the Irishman doesn’t expect the Castle Park side to finish the season propping up the increasingly competitive league even though they were on the wrong end of a 52-7 score line in Sunday’s game against high-flying Nottingham at Meadow Lane.
“We’ve lost or drawn several games that we should have won which would have made a big difference to our league position had we done so,” he told The Star.
“We are so close and we are right there and I think that is the most heart-breaking thing.”
Hopes had been high going into Sunday’s game - though the team knew that Meadow Lane is never an easy place to go - after being desperately unlucky not to beat second-placed Bedford at home in their last match a fortnight earlier.
No-one expected Knights to lose by 45 points, well though Nottingham played on the day.
Surprisingly, McGovern wasn’t as down as you might expect following such a big defeat.
“Sunday was all about trying to implement some new defensive tactics which were introduced in training during the week by Clive Griffiths, the club’s new director of professional rugby,” he said.
Despite making a confident start, Knights found themselves trailing 28-0 at the break but McGovern claimed spirits remained high.
“We still thought that we could get back into the game,” he said.
“We made a positive start to the second half and got it back to 28-7 and we felt that we were going in the right direction and that we were working well as a team.
“But then we had a player sin-binned and they scored again and they scored three more ties late on when we were again down to 14 men.”
In contrast to when Knights beat the green and whites - albeit a much-changed side - last month at the same ground in their British & Irish Cup Pool 8 clash, Nottingham won the forward battle.
“I wouldn’t say that they were the best pack we’ve played this season and I thought it was pretty even at the start,” said McGovern. “But we were disappointed to concede a try from a driving maul.”
He added: As I say, Clive came in halfway through last week and a lot of the ideas he brought in were really good but it was unfortunate that (because of prior commitments) he didn’t have the time to properly implement a lot of his ideas.
“But he is able to work full time with us this week and we are definitely going in a slightly different direction and we are looking forward to it.
“He planted the seeds last week and come Friday’s home game against Jersey we’ll be in a better position to play like he wants.”
The game against newcomers Jersey, kept off bottom spot by virtue of a better points difference, is seen as crucial.
“It’s the first time we’ve played them but I know that they are a big side and that they are physical, but we are at home and it’s Clive’s first home game, so hopefully we can beat them and climb off the bottom.”