A competition that began in the Welsh village of Gwent six months ago culminates in a historic first national cup final at Castle Park today for the Doncaster Knights.
Unfancied at almost every turn since winning that opening game against Cross Keys, Doncaster arrive at the final against huge favourites Worcester Warriors having twice defeated Cornish Pirates and Bedford before shocking Munster A and Bristol in the knockout rounds.
For Clive Griffiths, the club’s director of rugby, their position in the showpiece to be screened live on Sky Sports (5.10pm kick-off) is just reward for the character his side has shown.
“The players deserve all the credit,” he said.
“It’s been an arm wrestle in most of the games and then we were 7-0 down against Bristol in the semi-final after 45 seconds.
“We wouldn’t be in this historic position if it wasn’t for the character they have shown.”
Michael Hills is the man who will lead out the Knights today, having first represented his home town of Doncaster on a rugby pitch aged six.
“It is an honour and a privilege to lead and be part of such an amazing team,” said Hills.
“The coaching staff have had the right vision and drive to get us there.
“Having a home final at Castle Park is a huge and momentous occasion not just for us as players and staff but also for our supporters who have been instrumental in our success. The support has been exceptional and the Doncaster presence has been felt, appreciated and most certainly heard at all our games.”
Tongan international duo Tomasi Palu and Ume Fosita link up in the half-backs today inside a centre pairing of Mat Clark and dual-registered Leicester Tigers back George Catchpole.
Tyson Lewis and the Championship’s leading points scorer Dougie Flockhart will start on the wings with Paul Jarvis at full-back.
In the pack, Tom Davies starts at loosehead alongside Ben Hunter and Colin Quigley in the front row.
The Canadian pairing of Tyler Hotson and Jon Phelan are in the second row with Hills partnering Matt Challinor and Phil Eggleshaw in the back row.