STEVE HOSSACK: Game of two halves

Closing in: Knights eye play-offs spot.
Closing in: Knights eye play-offs spot.
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TUESDAY

DONCASTER Rovers slumped to a third successive Championship defeat at the Keepmoat Stadium.

And with the 2-0 defeat being against arch-rivals Barnsley it will have hurt the fans more than the defeats against Reading and Ipswich Town.

Once again Rovers lost their way in the second half after being the better side in the first.

THURSDAY

DONS boss Tony Miller said the Championship One side are on track for the start of their Northern Rail Cup Pool A campaign on Friday at the competition’s official launch in Halifax.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” said Miller. “We have a massive challenge in the first game, Featherstone away. It couldn’t have been any more difficult but that’s a yardstick to see where we are.

“Featherstone were the stand-out performers (in the Championship) last year and it looks like they are in good shape. They have just beaten Leeds (in a friendly) who had a strong side out so we know it’s a massive challenge.

“We want to be competitive. We have also got London Skolars and Dewsbury at home and Rochdale away so it’s a good balance to see where we are at. We definitely want to progress this year.

“The biggest challenge will be Featherstone who are a settled team and we are going into it with them at the top of their game. But who knows on the day? As long as we give a 100 per cent that’s all you can ask. We could certainly cause a couple of upsets.”

The Dons failed to qualify for the knockout stages last season and Miller hopes to go one better this year.

“To be fair last season we didn’t have a team until the start of the year,” said Miller. “This year we have managed to get the players we wanted early doors so we have had three months working with them and we’re a lot more settled.

“If we do well in the Northern Rail Cup, especially against opposition from the division above, that will give us a lot of confidence going into our division.

“We want to qualify (for the knockout stages) but if not we want to perform really well every game so it gives us a springboard for the season ahead.”

FRIDAY

DONCASTER Knights announced that Brett Davey, their current assistant coach, will take over the reins from Lynn Howells as their Director of Rugby from May as the latter sticks by his decision, announced last summer, to step down at the end of the current season.

Although some people in the game questioned Davey’s move from the top job at the Cornish Pirates to become assistant at Castle Park, the gamble has paid off.

In a playing career that took him from Beddau to Bristol, via a massively successful spell at Pontypridd - then a senior Welsh club,

It’s a good choice from my point of view,” said Howells.

“I brought him to the club really to mentor him and to fetch him through as somebody who could take over from me.

“He’s a good coach. He’s one of those coaches who thinks outside the square and asks things of players. He’s good at the skills the players need so I think he’ll be good for the club.

“The thing is that he knows what the club is about. He’s been here for 18 months and the biggest thing is that he wanted to be in Doncaster. He didn’t want to be anywhere else; he wanted to coach Doncaster.”

“The players also wanted him to get the job and that’s a big thing. Uncertainty is an awful thing for players but they now know where they are going and they can now be positive about the future,

“He’s a man of his own mind though. If he doesn’t want the players that are there I’ve got no doubts he won’t have them. He’ll do what he wants to do and that’s the right way to do things.

“I want to finish on a high like any coach would. I think if we get it right we have the players and we can certainly have a massive say in what is going to happen.”

Said Davey: “I’ve got to say it has been a tough week knowing that at the end of it there would be an announcement.

“I place a lot of pride in doing this job and feel that being here now, rather than arriving in the summer, gives me a head start on the 2011/12 season. I‘m absolutely delighted to be given this opportunity and look to next season with a lot of optimism.”

SATURDAY

KNIGHTS moved within a win of securing their place in the Championship top-eight play-offs when beating eighth-placed Plymouth 27-16 at Castle Park.

SUNDAY

ANDY Murray suffered the heartbreak of a second successive defeat in the final of Australian Open in Melbourne.

The Scot must have fancied his chances to become the first UK-born player to win a Grand Slam event for over 70 years after both Federer and Nadal had been knocked out,

But on the day Novak Djokovic proved too good for him and won in straight sets.

Well though Djokovic played, Murray will be disappointed that, for the second year in succession, he was well below his best in the final,

Being a proud Welshman, it must have almost choked Knights’ boss Lynn Howells to tip England to beat Wales in the opening Six Nations.

“My heart says Wales, always will, but my head says England will be very strong and hard to beat.” he said.

“I’m looking forward to the Six Nations - I think it could be one of the better ones because there are no clear-cut favourites who can dominate it.

“I think that Wales will struggle because unfortunately for them if they lose one or two of their first choice players they haven’t got the strength in depth.”

The Dons duly beat a local Doncaster Amateur Select 38-6 at the Keepmoart Stadium in their final warm-up game, but Miller was not getting carried away by the scoreline and said the team needed to be better with ball in hand.