IT was a battered and bruised Doncaster Knights team that returned from Scotland last Saturday evening after having lost to a spirited Ayr side in a hard, but clean, British and Irish Cup game.
In the first ten minutes of the second half, the Knights lost two of their starting backs – Paul Devlin (head injury) and Oli Denton (damaged shoulder) and one of their replacement backs PJ Gidlow (broken arm) within three minutes of being on the field.
The game ended with flankers Neil Cochrane and Latu Makaafi playing on the wing and at centre respectively. Strangely we played our best rugby towards the end with our reshuffled team and with another five minutes could well have won the game. However good luck to Ayr for their trip to Bristol in the quarter final and congratulations on being the first Scottish side to progress beyond the group stages of the cup.
It’s a long old journey to Ayr, particularly once you leave the motorway network. The last hour or so, albeit through some beautiful countryside, seemed to go on forever. It was even longer coming home as we detoured via Ayr Hospital to pick up PJ and our physio Vicky. What made the journey home worse was that the first services where we tried to stop, Gretna Green, was closed and at the second, Carlisle, the selection available was dire as that too was closing. I didn’t realise that that part of the country closed down at 10pm on a Saturday night!
As we lost to Ayr, the Knights miss out on the quarter-final stages of the Cup which gives everyone a weekend off to prepare for our six Group B promotion play-off matches against Cornish Pirates, Bedford and, our old friends, Rotherham Titans. None of these games will be easy but the players and management are confident that we will give a very good account of ourselves.
The week off will also give a number of our injured players a longer time to recover in the hope that some of them will be fit for the trip to Penzance the weekend after next.
We had a very successful seven days at Castle Park last week. It started off with a Players’ Awards Night on the Saturday, followed by a Sportsmen’s Dinner with former England international Mike Catt (thanks to Yorkshire Bank for making it happen) and finished with our Ladies’ Dinner, attended by almost 300, on the Friday. All three events were successful.