The second half of the Championship season dawns this weekend with the half-term report for each of the three Yorkshire club’s reading ‘could do better’.
Rotherham Titans fly the flag in fifth place – a position that remains creditable, but one that they have fallen to on the back of successive home defeats.
Doncaster Knights were always going to struggle, but a run of seven successive losses has left them looking over their shoulders at the second tier’s one relegation place.
Yorkshire Carnegie have been the much-discussed major disappointment of the season.
Sat in eighth place, 16 points adrift of a top-four spot they have perennially inhabited, it is unlikely to get any easier on Sunday against the division’s unbeaten pacesetters, Bristol.
But Harry Leonard, a fly-half recruited from Edinburgh in the summer and one of the few positives in a season of upheaval, believes progress since Tommy McGee succeeded Gary Mercer has been tangible, despite recent defeats to Worcester and London Scottish.
“What better games than these to put a marker down and prove to people that we are improving by beating the best in the league,” said Leonard, whose team return to Ashton Gate next Friday in the quarter-final of the British and Irish Cup.
“It’s a chance to make a mark. Bristol are a team to respect, they’re not top of the league for nothing.
“They’ve got a lot of firepower and some big names in their squad, but that’s not to say they’re a team to be feared.
“We know our ability is right up there with the best in the league.
“We know we’ve massively under-performed this season, but we certainly believe we are a top-four team.
“Bristol will be a perfect game to right a few wrongs and really take a good stride forward.
“Is top four attainable? I’m not going to say ‘no’, because we will always strive to get there.
“But there’s certainly no team in this league that we should fear.”
Doncaster have bolstered their squad for the crucial visit of fellow strugglers Jersey to Castle Park tomorrow with the signing of 22-year-old Tongan international fly-half Latiume Fosita.