DONCASTER KNIGHTS: Matt Challinor still waiting to win first battle

Matt Challiner: New Knights captain.                       Picture: dean atkins
Matt Challiner: New Knights captain. Picture: dean atkins

DONCASTER Knights’ skipper Matt Challinor is hoping to lead his side to their first Championship victory of the season at London Scottish on Saturday.

The respected second-rower, who was No 2 to half-back Chris Hallam last season, has yet to see the new-look Knights side win in three games to date.

“It’s a different role and there is a bit more pressure but I’m enjoying it,” he told The Star,

“We’ve had a big turnaround of players since the end of last season but it’s the nature of the game these days. You say to promising young lads from Premiership Academy’s ‘come and play for us’ and if you have good year you’ll get the chance to go elsewhere the following season.’

“It’s a stepping stone for them if you like and when it happens (they leave) you can’t really criticise them.

“We’ve had a lot of changes and when that happens it takes time for the squad to gel but I think we are there or thereabouts.

“We’ve lost our first three games but we’ve got better every game we’ve played. We’ve also played arguably the two strongest sides in Bristol and Newcastle.

“Obviously the defeat at Plymouth in our opening game was a hard pill to swallow because we had fancied our chances down there and to only come away with a losing bonus point was a disappointing in view of how pre-season had gone.

“We felt ready going into the Plymouth game having trained really hard. We’d played a couple of really tough warm-up games and we had expected to win at Plymouth. But we let both ourselves and the coaching staff down on the night.

“The home game against Bristol was a big step forward and I thought it was a game we could have won.

“Newcastle have just come down from the Premiership and are a very good side. We obviously went there expecting to put a good performance in and looking to try and pick up a win but realistically not many teams, if any, are going to go there and beat them.

“I thought we put up a good performance and it was a lot tighter game than the 37-3 scoreline would suggest. I spoke to Newcastle’s defensive coach, who was at Rotherham when I was there, after the game and he was really impressed with our defensive structure.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t have much ball in either game and we are concerned that we didn’t score a try in either match,

“We’ve got some really good attacking players in the backs and we want to be able to give them a chance to show what they can do with the ball.

“We’ve got a good half-back pairing, centre James Tinknell makes a lot of breaks, and we’ve Tyson Lewis on the wing and good players in other positions.

“So we are not just a defence-orientated side, but with the calibre of teams we’ve played so far that is how it has panned out so far.

“We were disappointed with the set-pieces because we, as a forward pack, think that we are really competitive in that area.

“We’ve got a good scrum and a good lineout, and whilst the wind was a factor (at Newcastle) it was a step backwards for us and it is something that we’ve addressed in training this week.

“Defensively we are getting where we want to be; attacking-wise we’ve got threats all over the park but we haven’t had much ball.

“If we (the forwards) have a bad day at the office, and don’t win any good ball, the best backs in the world can’t do anything.

“It’s a big pack across the board and we’ve got a few lads who can also double up in other positions.

“We are going to try and grind sides down, and sometimes that might take well into the second half to do that, and create attacking opportunities but we are confident we’ll be able to do that in most games. We also want to turn Castle Park into a fortress.

“London Scottish like to play with the ball - even their forwards like to have ball in hand - and they are more likely to try different things, whereas Newcastle were more forward-orientated and their pack was ready to run through brick walls.

“Although it is a game that we’ll be looking to win, it won’t be an easy game. They’ve recruited well and have got some good players.

“But we expect to have a lot more ball and be able to play more the way we want.”