DONCASTER KNIGHTS’ director of rugby Clive Griffiths knows “expectations will be high” in 2016-17 following this season’s remarkable exploits, but fully expects his squad to develop further.
Their historic campaign came to a mixed end on Wednesday –they won an epic Championship final second leg 34-32 at Bristol but lost 60-47 on aggregate to be denied a place in the Premiership. Nevertheless, for a club that had never reached the play-offs before and earned a highest-ever finish of second, it has been a stunning nine months.
Free-flowing Doncaster also won plenty of plaudits for their footballing style – they out-scored favourites Bristol five tries to two at Ashton Gate – and Griffiths told The Yorkshire Post: “I’m massively proud of them all.
“We went behind again but showed what we’ve shown all season – intent to play, true character, a will to win and great rugby.
“We’ve not got the Holy Grail, as such, but we’ve certainly won a few friends, finishing with some huge momentum and an eye-catching win in front of the Sky cameras.”
That was important for the Welshman as he felt his side – who clinched victory when Dougie Flockhart converted Latu Makaafi’s try with the final play – under-performed in the televised first leg, a 28-13 defeat.
“We were so disappointed with that; we kept dropping the ball and that’s when the damage was done,” recalled Griffiths.
“It was like in the semi; we did the damage to Yorkshire (Carnegie) at Headingley and they came to us and won, but didn’t do enough to take the tie.
“That’s just happened with us at Bristol. There was two massive moments in the game – just before and after half-time – that had massive swings.
“We saw Michael Heaney’s kick charged down and Bristol score; we didn’t help him with blocks but could have gone in, in the lead.
“And then Mat Clark had a ‘try’ chalked off at the start of the second half for some sort of blocking. It was fitting we eventually won on the night, though. It’d have been a travesty if we’d not.”
On next season, he added: “Expectation will be high, that’s the first thing. Everyone will expect us to get in the play-offs again.
“We’ve retained the nucleus of the team and I think augmented that with some good signings.
“We’re probably going to sign a few more, too, but won’t need to do too much, just tweak a few things here and there.”