Sam Graham relishing leadership role at Doncaster Knights

HAVING just recently turned 24, Sam Graham knows he is still relatively young to be captaining Doncaster Knights but it is a role he is relishing.

Doncaster Knights' Sam Graham. Picture: Tony Johnson

The hard-carrying flanker, who joined from Bristol Bears last season and won player of the year as Doncaster came third, hopes to pick up the second victory of his reign when they head to Bedford Blues on Friday.

Graham was installed as captain for the new campaign after prop Bomber Hislop joined Wasps in the off-season and veteran lock Matt Challinor retired from full-time rugby to switch to Rotherham Titans.

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The pair have left a considerable void to fill in terms of experience and leadership but Graham, who is being assisted by co-captains Sam Olver and Billy McBride, led Doncaster to their first win with Saturday’s 36-7 success against London Scottish.

“It felt good,” he said, after they bounced back from an opening day Championship loss at Coventry.

“It felt really good to get that first win as captain.

“It was a good squad effort, particularly in the second half.

“We showed a lot of guts and I’m proud of them.

“It is a young group here and I really enjoy it (captaincy). There’s a lot of learning curves and you have to learn quite quickly as well, particularly off the back of that loss at Coventry.

“We have a really good set of leaders but they are all in the same boat as me: a lot of us are doing this for the first time. But with youth comes a lot of energy and that’s one thing we have to bring every week. I think we’re getting there.”

Doncaster only led 10-7 at half-time against Scottish following an error-ridden first period where they continually coughed up the ball or kicked it away. However, they were far more slick in the second period when they ran in four tries and Knights will look to continue in that vein at Bedford who started their campaign with Saturday’s 40-28 loss at Jersey Reds.

Graham, who helped Bristol win promotion back to the Premiership in 2018, said: “We probably picked up a little bit from where we left off the previous week.

“We were a bit sloppy and maybe there were a few nerves coming into it. We weren’t happy with our performance last week but the second half showed what we are about a bit more.

“We began to stick it to Scottish and hopefully, if we can carry on that theme – of picking up from where we left off – that’s our first few phases sorted and we can start sticking it to teams early.”

On Bedford, Graham said: “They love to attack.

“It will probably be a bit similar to Saturday. They are not all that interested in defending so I think our eyes are probably going to light up. But we have to bring our game – which is to play with the ball in hand.

“It’s a shorter turnaround which can be tough but the boys have got to be up for this and I’m sure they will.”