Doncaster v Bristol: Cup provides joy for Knights but league remains the focus

Doncaster Knights' Matt Challinor is rested for today's Cup semi-final at home to Bristol.
Doncaster Knights' Matt Challinor is rested for today's Cup semi-final at home to Bristol.
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Clive Griffiths believes the British & Irish Cup has been a blessing for Doncaster Knights this season but insists it is far from the top priority for the club.

Doncaster are the unlikely lads in the last four of the competition, rubbing shoulders with Premiership wannabees like today’s opponents Bristol and Worcester, and the A-side of multiple European champions Leinster.

The Castle Park men have outperformed everyone in the competition, winning all six of their pool games before routing Munster A 38-17 in the quarter-final two months ago.

That performance, comfortably their best of the season, was also a turning point in the campaign.

For while they have excelled in the Cup, they have struggled in the league and save for winning three of their first four games and three of their last four, a nine-match winless run in between means they are still looking over their shoulders at relegation.

“Our season turned on that Munster performance,” said Griffiths. “The Jersey game the week before was our worst performance, we contrived to lose a match we should have won.

“That B&I win over Munster got us back on track, and we were that good that day it could have been 58-17, never mind 38-17.

“I know we then went and lost our next game against Worcester but we were very good that day, and since then, we’ve put a bit of daylight between ourselves and Plymouth at the bottom (nine points).

“We were under pressure in that game against Munster, even though we were underdogs, because it was a great opportunity for us and one we grasped. We’re punching above our weight in this competition. Nobody expects us to win.

“Today is a cup tie on our home field.

“It’s a lovely occasion for the club, another big crowd at Castle Park and it’s great to see Doncaster alongside three great clubs at this stage of the competition.

“We’re very proud to have got this far. But the B&I is not the be all and end all.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, the important thing for us from now until the end of the season is making sure we’re playing Championship rugby next season.”

With a trip to London Scottish in mind next Friday, Griffiths has elected to rest a few of his walking wounded, including lock Matt Challinor who played with a damaged elbow at Moseley last week.

“We’re hoping the guys coming in bring a new energy to us,” said Griffiths of his four changes.