RANSACKING the prestigious Championship leaders on their home ground will come at a price for ambitious Doncaster Knights.
They host Moseley today in their first league game since heading to Bristol and stunning the erstwhile Premiership club 39-27, a result that sent shock waves around the competition.
Doncaster always knew they were capable of such grand feats but, perhaps crucially, so now do all their competitors.
That said, experienced lock Matt Challinor insists it matters little – the South Yorkshire club is confident of kicking on and securing its goal of a top-four finish regardless.
“There will be added pressure on us now,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “Other people will have seen that Bristol result and thought ‘Flippin heck, Donny have got something.’
“Teams won’t come to Castle Park in the dark; they’ll know what we’re capable of and Moseley will be no different on Saturday. But we know we can kick on now. We’ve spoken about it a lot; we can beat most teams in this league and if we play to our ability and they do too we still fancy our chances.
“Even before Bristol, the play-offs was the target. We kept it quiet and weren’t advertising it but we’ve always felt that.”
They have good reason. That Bristol result was no fluke but rather a sixth league win of the campaign that leaves them well-placed in the top-four, 12 months after staring at relegation.
They have broken off the last fortnight to start their British & Irish Cup campaign, maintaining their momentum with a gritty draw in Jersey and then victory over Irish side Connacht Eagles.
Former Rotherham lock Challinor is unsurprised by their advancements and pointed to some key individuals as being crucial to the cause.
“Will Hurrell has made a massive difference at 12,” he said.
“He seems to get over the gain line every time he gets the ball and, when you’re getting up from the scrum, it’s nice to see him 10, 20 metres further up field getting us on the front foot.
“Our new fly-half Declan Cusack talks really well and is a reassuring voice with a good rugby brain while Ollie Stedman has gone really well at No 8, too, so I’d say they are flying the flag for us.”
On Moseley, who are near the other end of the table but picked up a valuable win over Cornish Pirates last time out, he added: “They are already traditionally a bit of a bogey team for us.
“But this season they seem to be playing a different brand of rugby as well.
“You always expect a hard-fought contest up front and expect the same this weekend but they can play more expansive stuff now and have brought some backs in who can get them over the gain line and are quite elusive.
“It was important for us to continue our momentum after Bristol and we have done that.
“We had some trouble at Jersey but the way the weather changed in that second half we did well to get out of there with a draw while last week was a good win for the boys even if the performance was not as high as we’d like. We can’t wait to get back into the league now.”
Meanwhile, club captain Challinor is set to return this afternoon after missing last week’s B&I Cup game through a rare injury. The player, who joined from Rotherham in 2010, explained: “I’d not missed a league game for five years, but have had a couple of injuries now this season.
“I broke a couple of ribs against Leeds (Carnegie) so missed the London Scottish and Pirates league matches. Then I’d just got fit thinking I might get on the bench at Bristol but got thrown in for a full 80.
“I didn’t think that would be the case and kept looking over to the bench after the hour mark. But then I broke my thumb next. There’s a hole in the bone at the bottom of it so I didn’t play against Connacht. I’ll probably get that operated on but will put it off until the end of the season.”
Challinor, 31, rates the win over Bristol as one of the best of his long career.
“It’s definitely up there especially being away and they had all their World Cup players back, too, so they can’t say they were under-strength,” he continued.
“We were stood under the posts after conceding in the first minute as well and looking at each other thinking we could be in for a very long night.”
Doncaster make just one change to the backline that started versus Connacht, Andy Bulumakau dropping to the bench with Mat Clark at outside centre.
Up front, Colin Quigley will start at tighthead prop for the first time since that win at Bristol while Challinor starts at lock alongside Jon Phelan with Glen Young included on the bench.
Stedman wears the No 8 jersey with Alex Shaw shifting to blindside.