Doncaster look to clinch promotion with Blackheath win

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NINE months of pure toil, effort and sheer hard work all boils down to 80 tense minutes for Doncaster Knights today.

They take on London Blackheath in the final game of their National One campaign knowing victory will secure them the title and, more importantly, promotion.

Defeat? Well, that isn’t worth thinking about.

If this afternoon’s fixture was at their Castle Park home, there would be few, if any, jitters given Clive Griffiths’s side have won all 15 games there since being relegated from the Championship last term.

However, instead, it is on the road and Doncaster’s grasp of top spot is suddenly so fragile because they have lost five away games on their travels.

Rosslyn Park lie in wait, just three points adrift in second and, with a relatively comfortable home match versus 12th-placed Cinderford today, ready to fully capitalise if the South Yorkshire club freeze.

Paul Cooke, Doncaster’s backs and skills coach who has orchestrated so much of their attacking quality since joining last summer, maintains that will not be an issue.

“We’ve had a good week, the boys have taken everything on board and we’re refreshed having had no game last Saturday,” Cooke told The Yorkshire Post last night from the squad’s London hotel.

“Now, they are really focused for what is a massive game for them and the whole club.

“We’re looking at keeping them grounded, keeping a lid on their emotions and retaining that focus.

“They’re ready to go but we don’t want them to play the game tonight or in our team meeting. It’s got to be tomorrow.

“We have lost five away games but we ground out a result in our last match at Coventry, scoring a try in the 76th minute when we looked in danger of losing out.

“We know Rosslyn Park will probably win and go up if we don’t but if we win, that’s it. We’re promoted. That’s all we’re thinking about.

“It all comes down to this match at Blackheath. If we’d have said that last July in pre-season training – a win here to go up – we’d have taken it.”

That 18-17 victory at third-placed Coventry a fortnight must surely have revived Doncaster enough to see them home but only time will tell.

An injury to Paul Roberts sees Jamie Lennard selected at fly-half while Glenn Bryce comes in at full-back with Paul Jarvis moving to the bench.

In the only other change, club stalwart Glen Kenworthy returns in the second-row for Shaun Jones who is left out of the squad.

Doncaster defeated Blackheath 47-17 in their last meeting back on the opening day of the season in September.

Their hosts sit eighth having won and lost 13 games this term, drawing their other three.

Elsewhere, Hull Ionians head to Coventry while Wharfedale visit Worthing with the Dalesmen also having one more fixture to complete in a week’s time at Cinderford.

Aviva Premiership club Newcastle have agreed a new two-year contract for scrum-half Warren Fury. Fury, 28, won two Wales caps in 2008 and joined the Falcons two years ago.