Preview to Doncaster (H)


Tub-thumping, getting out of jail and nerves of steel: all the ingredients for 'Judgement Day'

With almost biblical predictability, it has come to pass: the occasion they're calling Judgement Day, unless you'd prefer Survival Saturday, la mêlée en La Manche, or sundry other tub-thumping labels. Call it what you like, it's an occasion that promises to jangle the nerves of Jersey supporters like never before.

Doncaster _Knights _logo _crop

The Island side's prospects of returning for a second campaign in the RFU Championship next September look likely to depend on the encounter with Doncaster at St Peter. Victory for Jersey will leave the visitors glued to the relegation trapdoor, with time running out, but the Knights know that an escape route is possible.

The visitors 'get-out-of-jail' option isn't a straightforward affair. The Yorkshiremen will have to overcome a large and passionate home crowd and achieve their first league win away from home in 10 attempts. They would then need to win at least one of their remaining games - away to Bedford next Wednesday, and home to Plymouth on Saturday - while hoping Jersey leave Cornwall empty-handed. The Knights can at least take comfort from a 22-17 win against Jersey at Castle Park in November.

All sorts of nonsense gets spouted ahead of matches like this, not least the hoary old line about 'the team who wants it more'. Desire looks unlikely to be missing among any of the 44 participants, and it seems far more likely that coolness, or mistakes, under pressure may be the crucial factors.

Jersey hope that the crowd will surpass the attendance of 3,074 against Bristol three weeks ago that is the record for a league match this season. Or perhaps the 3,648 who saw Jersey play Rosslyn Park in January 2012, the official record for a league match at St Peter?

Surely it can't approach the 4,520 who crammed into the ground for the visit of Leicester Tigers last August? Or can it? The away contingent is predicted to total around 100, but it will be 15 against 15 on the field, and everyone involved, whether they are inside or outside the perimeter fencing, will needs nerves of steel.

Match-day arrangements
See HERE for the latest ticket news, and important info regarding arrangements for match-day

News from the Jersey camp
Jersey Director of Rugby Ben Harvey has recalled several front-line players who missed the Islanders' last league outing against Newcastle on Good Friday through illness or injury.

Nicky Griffiths is back at scrum-half to captain the side, while fellow Welshman Barry Davies has recovered from a hip injury and returns at full-back. Dave McCormack and Max Stelling switch to the bench. In midfield, David Bishop will start after an impressive display off the bench against the Falcons, replacing Mark McCrea who suffered a season-ending ankle injury at Kingston Park.

Jersey's pack sees the return of Guy Thompson and Charlie Walker-Blair in the back-row, while Rob Anderson retains his place at lock following impressive displays against Bristol and Newcastle. Tight calls for Harvey in the front-row see Richard Barrington and Elvis Taione chosen ahead of Sean McCarthy and Dave Felton, who also take up replacement roles along with prop James Gethings and back-row men Kingsley Lang and Joe Buckle.

Jersey squad, sponsored by Locate Jersey and
1 Richard Barrington
2 Elvis Taione
3 Jon Brennan
4 Rob Anderson
5 Dave Markham
6 Charlie Walker-Blair
7 Fred Silcock
8 Guy Thompson

9 Nicky Griffiths (capt)
10 Michael Le Bourgeois
11 Ed Dawson
12 David Bishop
13 Mark Foster
14 James Copsey
15 Barry Davies

Sean McCarthy
Dave Felton
James Gethings
Kingsley Lang
Joe Buckle
Dave McCormack
Max Stelling

Any previous?
The two teams played on a chilly night as Castle Park at the end of November, with the home side winning 22-17 in spite of a late Jersey fight-back. A full report on the game can be seen HERE.

Doncaster in 2012/13
Knights started their Championship campaign at Plymouth on September 1st, taking a bonus point from a 27-22 defeat. Bristol, Newcastle and London Scottish were next in line, resulting in three further losses, although the nine-point margins in two of these games signalled bonus points which had got away.

The first positive result of the season was an 18-18 home draw against Cornish Pirates, although this was a game Knights looked set to win until a 79th-minute Kieran Hallett penalty squared the ledger.

After a 42-7 reverse at Leeds, the B&I Cup offered a fresh opportunity, but Scottish visitors Melrose claimed a 30-29 triumph at Castle Park before Knights sneaked down the M1 and grabbed a 27-13 win over Nottingham in a game where they were clearly the more motivated side. This desire carried through to the return to Championship action on home soil when Moseley were beaten 24-16.

After going down 38-20 at Rotherham, a second home win looked on the cards against Bedford, only for a last-gasp Josh Bassett try and Brendan Burke conversion sealed a fortunate win for the Blues.

On their second trip of the season to Meadow Lane, Knights finished a distant second, Jethro Rawling's try being the lone score in a 52-7 defeat.

Victory over Jersey at Castle Park was followed by four successive league defeats, including an agonising 9-14 loss to London Scottish, before Leeds were beaten 23-17. But losses to Moseley, Rotherham and Nottingham have kept Donny anchored, for the time being, to the bottom of the Championship table.

Among those to watch, the experienced number 9 Chris Hallam is in his fifth season as a Knight, while fly-half Jamie Lennard, though only 26, is in his second stint at Castle Park and has played for six other clubs in his career to date, including Premiership and Heineken Cup experience with London Irish. He's this season's top-scorer with 130 points. Canadian full back Connor Braid, one of several Canucks now involved in the Championship, played in the recent international series at Colwyn Bay and has a total of four caps.

Doncaster's pack includes Welsh prop Tom Davies, the club's longest-serving player, recently re-signed for 2013/14, in the loose-head spot. Number 8 Chris Planchant has been with Knights since 2007 while skipper Matt Challinor, who plays lock, played for Harrogate, Morley and Rotherham before signing for Doncaster in summer 2010, and this week committed himself to the club for 2013/14 by signing a new contract.

Hooker Ben Sowery played against Jersey for Wharfedale last season, bu there's no place for Jethro Rawling, who was on loan with Jersey last season.

Clive Griffiths has named another strong line-up ahead of the Knights biggest game of the season.

There is only one change to the back line that impressed last time out against Nottingham Rugby on Good Friday. Centre Will Simpson returning in place of the injured Tom Luke who misses the match with a calf problem. Simpson, who himself only returned from injury last month, is partnered at outside centre by Dante Mama after the Nigerian born flyer scored a fine individual try in the 21-27 defeat against the East Midlands outfit.

Michael Keating, who grabbed most of the plaudits against the Green and Whites, retains his place on the right wing, whilst Will Sharp and Connor Braid make up the back three. Griffiths also sticks with his half back pairing of Joe Bedford and kicker Jamie Lennard.

In the forwards, Doncaster are boosted by the return from injury of long serving and recently re-signed prop Tom Davies, who starts ahead of Knights' Man of the Match last time out Andy Brown. Davies is partnered in the front row by Rhys Buckley and Tomas Francis.

On the back of signing a new two year contract at the Knights, captain Matt Challinor starts in the second row where he is once again partnered by Dominic Parsons. The back row remains unchanged again with Adam Kettle, Will Hafu and Chris Planchant all starting for the trip to St Peter.

Brown, who deservedly makes the trip, is joined on the bench by recent signing and hopeful debutant tight-head prop Ben Hooper having arrived from Leeds Carnegie last month. Jack Bergmanas also makes his return to the match day squad as a replacement where he is joined by fellow forwards Andy Boyde and Ben Sowery.

Chris Hallam continues his push towards 100 appearances for the club with another appearance from the bench, with Dougie Flockhart named as utility back and replacement kicker.

Doncaster Knights

15. Connor Braid
14. Michael Keating
13. Dante Mama
12. Will Simpson
11. Will Sharp
10. Jamie Lennard
9. Joe Bedford

1. Tom Davies
2. Rhys Buckley
3. Tomas Francis
4. Matt Challinor
5. Dominic Parsons
6. Adam Kettle
7. Will Hafu
8. Chris Planchant

16. Andy Brown
17. Jack Bergmanas
18. Ben Hooper
19. Andy Boyde
20. Ben Sowery
21. Chris Hallam
22. Dougie Flockhart

History of Doncaster RFC
Doncaster Rugby Football Club were founded in 1875. The club led a nomadic existence for the first 50 or so years, playing at various sites in the area. There was even a short spell as a Northern Union club, dabbling on what might be known in other areas (but not a rugby league stronghold) as 'the dark side'.

In the early 1920s DRFC moved to a site near the town centre where it shared a ground with the cricket club, as is the case to this day at Clifton Lane for local rivals Rotherham. This uneasy liaison lasted for 30 years before the club moved to its existing ground at Armthorpe Road, some three miles away from the town. What started as a single pitch, two changing rooms and a small clubroom facility evolved over the years into the first-rate facility that it is today, catering not only for the professional Knights, but also amateur sides and a thriving junior section that now has more than 400 members.

Key milestones in the evolution of Castle Park were the opening of the new clubhouse in 2000 and the completion of the De Mulder Lloyd Stand in January 2009.

The pre-league era was for the most part a constant story with highlights including success in the Yorkshire Shield, the county cup competition for junior sides, in 1979.

1987 was a year of innovation in rugby union, with the inaugural World Cup, followed a few months later by the introduction of the national leagues. Donny took their place in Yorkshire Two, or level 10 on the national pyramid. Jersey were at level eight at this stage - London Four South-West - but were relegated within a season to Hampshire One.

Within two years Doncaster were up to Yorkshire One, and then the early 1990s saw three consecutive promotions drawing on a 'home-grown' policy that utilised former members of an all-conquering colts side.

On the international stage, two more World Cup cycles had passed and the game turned professional, with the first paid employee at Castle Park being Player-Coach Kevin Westgarth in summer 1996. The following season saw 22 straight wins in North Two, and it was nearly another promotion the following season only for New Brighton to take the North One title on points difference. In 1998/99 they went one better: promoted to the National League (level four) and also winning the (senior) Yorkshire Cup by beating Sandal in the final.

While the majority of the players remained home-grown, imported coaching talent was a feature of the 'noughties', first with former Bristol stalwart Derek Eves and then a succession of Welsh Coaches that made Doncaster second only to the Patagonian town of Puerto Madryn as a small corner of the Valleys far from home (or in this case a few hours up the motorway).

Kingsley Jones was the man-in-charge in 2003/04 and the final promotion - so far - of the club's ascent was achieved under South African successor Pieter Muller in April 2005. The first season at level two ended with a respectable finish, and in summer 2006 Clive Griffiths became Director of Rugby. There was something of the Great Redeemer in the new man as he guided the newly-rebranded Knights to third-place in the league, the only down side being rival calls from those in need of redemption, with Griffiths joining fellow countryman 'Razor' Ruddock at Worcester in summer 2007.

Another Welshman, Lynn Howells, was appointed DoR ahead of the 2007/08 season in which Donny were fourth, with Howells assisted by Italian Massimo Cuttita and former London Irish player Justin Bishop, and the following season they survived the 'culling' of four clubs from level two as The Championship was founded.

Since then Knights have finished 7th (2010) 6th (2011) and 8th (last season), leading to three appearances in the now-defunct promotion play-offs - there was little success in 09/10 or 11/12, but the season in between saw Howells' side just a point adrift of Bedford in the tussle to claim a semi-final place. In 2009/10 there was a successful run in the inaugural year of the B&I Cup in 2009/10, winning the pool before losing to eventual winners Cornish Pirates at the semi-final stage.

Doncaster Triv
* The final games of 2005/06 saw club captain Rob Liley reach the 1000 point mark for the club in his four seasons at Castle Park, and the 2000 point mark in an illustrious career before retiring. Liley's older brother John, ex-Leicester, played alongside him during part of this period

* Winger Dougie Flockhart was the highest points-scorer in 2011/12 with 100 while fellow winger Michael Keating was top try-scorer with 10. Although his memory of the occasion is somewhat sketchy, records show that Ben Harvey turned out for Richmond against Doncaster at the Madejski Stadium in January 1998, Richmond winning the Tetley's Bitter Cup match 58-8

* The De Mulder Lloyd Stand, which has a capacity of 1,600, is named after two leading backers of the club - Tony De Mulder, currently President and Chairman, and former Chairman Steve Lloyd, who now lives in Guernsey but is still a major supporter of DRFC

Clive -Griffiths _886767

* DoR Clive Griffiths (above) was a contender for international honours in the days before tactical replacements, and before Wales demeaned the prestige by awarding caps for games against the Barbarians. Plenty of players who sat on the bench in the 1960s and 70s never made it onto the field, but Griffiths won a single cap, and in impressive circumstances too, as a half-time replacement for the injured (how many times did that happen?) JPR Williams in a 27-3 stuffing of England in Cardiff in March 1979. He will be one of two single-capped Welsh full-backs involved, along with Jersey's Barry Davies

* Jersey scrum-half Nicky Griffiths had a season with the Knights in 2009/10, making nine appearances; Steve Boden, signed by Jersey as a hooker last summer but now Forwards Coach after being forced to retire through injury immediately after making his return to Castle Park, made around 200 appearances for the club and scored 18 tries, including 10 in 2007/08. See picture below of 'Bodes' in his free-scoring youth.


Following the game
Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v Bristol through the following channels:

* Live commentary on BBC Jersey, available online and on your transistor-wireless device, with the show starting at 2pm, plus preview on Friday evening from 5.30 to 6pm.
* Match report on Channel 103 just after 5pm, as well as scoreflashes and a half-time update
* Audio commentary and video highlights on Channel TV's website, and on Monday evening on ITV at around 6.15pm, or on BBC TV Channel Islands at 6.30pm on Monday.
* Preview in Friday's JEP, the Inside Centre pull-out with Saturday's paper and full match coverage on Monday
* Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum

The Championship this weekend
There are some important matches in the tussle for play-off spots, notably at Goldington Road, while Moseley remain mathematical contenders for relegation.
Saturday: Bedford v Leeds, Rotherham v Moseley, Plymouth v Newcastle, London Scottish v Bristol
Sunday: Nottingham v Cornish Pirates (live on Sky)

And Finally

In a recent preview it was stated that the Connacht v Newport pool match in the B&I Cup had been cancelled due to lack of interest. This was the case at one point, but the missing match will now be played after all on the last weekend of April, just as Bedford are hosting Newcastle, and Munster 'A' take on Leinster 'A' in the semi-finals.

Local action in Jersey this weekend sees Jersey Colts play a visiting side from Consett, County Durham, with matches on both Saturday (after the Doncaster game, at around 5.30pm) and Sunday (2pm). United Banks will travel to Guernsey to play St Jacques on Sunday, while Jersey Wanderers host LQ Lydian Lions at St Peter (2pm Sunday).

It will be great to see three injured soldiers back at St Peter for the big game. Jersey Treasurer Adam Budworth and his wife Glenda are planning their first trip to a game since their terrible accident last month, when they were hit by a falling tree on the Railway Walk during the blizzard, while Mark McCrea is flying in from Ireland, where he has been recovering following his injury against Newcastle. It'll be great to see them all, and we look forward to having them firing on all cylinders by the start of 2013/14.

And lastly, take a bow Dan Gill. The Doncaster Director of Community Rugby is making a return trip to Jersey just a week after his first visit. It should be emphasised that the first trip was very much a scheduled, undercover fact-finding mission, rather than, as might unkindly have been suggested in some quarters, a case of booking flights for the wrong weekend. We believe you Dan!!

It may be tense, but try and enjoy your weekend's rugby!
Tom Innes

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