WHEN you are bottom of the Championship, as Doncaster Knights are, there is only one way to go and that is up.
Knights have made their worst start to a season since league rugby was introduced over 25 years ago, and their position in the table is an obvious cause of concern.
But no one at Castle Park, especially influential captain Matt Challinor, is thinking the worse despite the fact that unlike previous seasons, when the bottom four played off to decide who was relegated, the club propping up the table at the end of April will automatically go down.
“We may not have started as well as we would have liked but the fact that we should have beaten third-placed Bedford at Castle Park on Friday shows that we are not far off the top sides,” he told The Star.
Knights looked to have the game won leading 21-10 deep into the final quarter only to end up losing 22-21 after ten minutes of stoppage time.
“It was hugely disappointing to lose to the last kick of the game,” said the Rotherham-born second-rower.
“Had their final try not been so near the post we might have hung on because there would have been more pressure on their kicker.”
Knights, who had spent most of added time penned in their own 22, had prop Tom Davies sin-binned shortly before Bedford scored, but Challinor didn’t look to use his yellow card as an excuse.
“Obviously you are always better off with 15 men than 14, but I don’t really think the fact that he was sin-binned affected the result,” he said.
With newcomers Jersey, level on points but boasting a better points difference, losing at Bristol on Sunday, Knights would have climbed above the St Helier-based club had they beaten the Blues. But it is not all doom at gloom.
“The fact that we came within a few seconds of beating Bedford, who have got a lot of good players and strength in depth, shows just how close we are to getting it right,” said Challinor.
“The forwards played really well, as we did against Rotherham the previous week, and I think that we are a match for any side in this division, with the possible exception of Newcastle.
“What we have got to learn to do as a team is to close games out. That’s twice we’ve lost the lead in stoppage time.”
This weekend’s Championship XV-Maori All Blacks game at Castle Park, gives Knights an extra week to lick their wounds.
“We’d have preferred to be playing this weekend because we all want to get more points on the board as quickly as we can,” said Challinor.
Knights visit another high-flying side, Nottingham, on Friday week before entertaining Jersey for the first time in what is being viewed in some quarters as a must-win game.