Doncaster v Jersey: Hills vows struggling Knights will stick with attractive style

Michael Hills returned to boyhood club Doncaster, who were in National One, 18 months ago.
Michael Hills returned to boyhood club Doncaster, who were in National One, 18 months ago.
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Doncaster Knights captain Michael Hills says the club will not sacrifice their ball-playing instincts in a bid to beat the drop.

The Castle Park outfit have plummeted to second bottom in the 12-team Championship on the back of a seven-game losing run in the league that dates back to September.

But after working so hard to win back their place in the second tier last season with a brand of rugby that at times was easy on the eye, second-rower Hills says they will not abandon that as they seek to preserve their Championship status.

“We need to stick to the rugby that won us promotion, there’s no point abandoning that,” said 29-year-old Hills, who returned to the club he joined as a six-year-old 18 months ago.

“Yes, at times we will need to be conservative, but attacking rugby gets you the tries and the penalty opportunities.

“We’ve got the confidence that we can still play that way.

“I know it’s seven games without a win but there’s been a lot of close matches and we’re not that far away.”

Given the start they made, winning three of their first four games including a vital win at today’s opponents Jersey, Doncaster would have hoped not to have been embroiled in a relegation battle.

But a long-overdue first win of the season for Plymouth last week, allied with their own slide, means the bottom markers are now just eight points adrift of Clive Griffiths’s side.

But Hills said: “We have the facilities and the infrastructure here to be a club in the top half of the Championship.

“I know how tough a division it is, but we like to think as a team we are better than finishing 11th with the goals that we have set.

“As it is, finishing 11th saves us from relegation, but we’re striving for better than that.

“We have got the right players and as we have proven, we can live with teams in the top five or six.”

Hills left Doncaster when he was 16 after signing with Sale Sharks.

He is back at his hometown club via a lengthy spell at London Welsh, whom he won promotion from the Championship with and played in the Premiership for.

It was a big decision to step down to National One 18 months ago, one he would have only taken for a club so close to his heart.

“I’m really enjoying it, it’s a great honour to captain the club I started with as a six-year-old,” said Hills.

“Obviously it’s tough losing games, but it’s a good bunch of lads and a lot of senior figures.”

Doncaster’s survival bid, which faces a stern test against 10th-placed Jersey today, has been bolstered by their dual-registration deal with Leicester Tigers.

Flanker Laurence Pearce – formerly of Rotherham Titans – and hooker Harry Thacker will both start today.

Hills said: “The Leicester players are a breath of fresh air. We have a small squad so we need the input and it’s nice to have fresh faces.

“The Leicester boys have always come with a great attitude and mentality.”