Doncaster Knights face arguably their toughest task so far in this season’s Greene King IPA Championship in tonight’s game against leaders Yorkshire Carnegie at Headingley (8pm).
Beaten just once, the Leeds club have made their best start to a season for several years and held on to top spot with a 26-13 win away to Cornish Pirates last Sunday.
Knights boss Clive Griffiths is hoping that Carnegie’s long trip to Cornwall, and their five-day turnaround, will prove important factors in tonight’s derby.
Knights don’t have the best of records at the famous stadium, though they did win there last season when completing the double over the former Premiership side.
Griffiths feels that Carnegie will be one of the teams challenging for promotion but says his charges, who have overcome a string of injury problems to key players, will not lack confidence.
“We’ve been patched up, particularly in the backs, in most of our opening games so to win three of our games – it could have been five – shows that we aren’t in bad shape,” he said.
“We weren’t at our best last weekend but we still won the game.
“That is something we spoke about in pre-season – the need to pick up points when we haven’t played particularly well.”
No-one has done more to help secure Knights an unexpected top-four spot than veteran flanker Latu Makaafi – the Championship’s leading try-scorer this season with eight.
“He’s having his second flush of youth,” said the Welshman.
“With the backs being somewhat depleted it’s important that the forwards chip in with tries and Latu has done just that.
“He’s playing well but we’ve got to manage him in the right way because he gives everything while he’s on the field. “