This weekend is another strange situation with Jersey Reds playing a 'home' game at Castle Park, Doncaster. Our preparation for the game has gone very well and we are looking forward to a battle with an in-form Donny. However, as we all know, games between the Reds and the Knights are always tough and can go either way!
It has been great to have Ed Robinson back in training this week after his time with England, we have definitely missed him.
The squad are looking strong and new siging, Adam Nicol, having only been on the Island for a week, will make his debut for the Reds tomorrow. Ciaran Parker and Zei Alexis are working really hard to get back to fitness and that will create real competition in the tighthead position along with Jack Higgins.
Darren Atkins and Max Green, who are on loan from Bath, have settled in well with Darren scoring a great try against Bedford in our last outing. Max will start this weekend and he can’t wait to get out onto the pitch.
I would also like to welcome Eoghan Clarke and Matti Williams to the Reds, I am sure it will not be long before we see them contributing in games.
Finally I hope that you enjoy the game, all be it through your TV screens but hopefully not long now and we will be able to hear your support at games!
Come on you Reds!
Tony De Mulder
Good afternoon & welcome to Castle Park.
Although it may not feel like it, today marks the halfway point of this truncated 2021 Championship regular season. Today also marks the first ‘away’ game I have ever attended at Castle Park and we are delighted to welcome Jersey Reds back to Doncaster albeit sad not to make the trip to the Island this year.
I know a great deal of teamwork and flexibility has taken place to make sure restrictions did not prevent The Reds from taking part in this season’s competition which is testament to collective will of the organisations involved in the league.
There will be plenty of old acquaintances renewed today with several former Reds making the move to South Yorkshire this summer and vice versa. Of course, Head Coach Steve Boden cut his teeth as a coach on the Island, and we are very pleased with the job he has done so far this season.
Clashes between our two sides rarely fail to entertain, a trend we hope will continue this afternoon with plenty of fans tuning in to watch the live stream. Fingers crossed it is the last time we are unable to watch the game together and we can soon cheer from the side-lines and enjoy a drink together afterwards once again.
Enjoy the game and stay safe.
Welcome back to Castle Park – we hope everyone enjoyed the Easter Weekend.
The bye week allowed us to give the players a few well-earned days off following an encouraging start to the season. It also gave us an opportunity to reflect on the opening four games and identify what’s working and what needs to improve.
The players are aware that while we’ve had a encouraging start , that’s all it is. We need to look at ourselves and continue to improve and grow as a team.
Today’s challenge will be as tough as any we have faced so far. After just over a calendar year without a competitive game, Jersey produced a solid performance against Saracens and have got better every game since, winning well at Bedford last time out.
Harvey and his team will have Jersey extremely well-coached with a full time squad and some exceptional experienced talents. There is no question that today will be a huge battle and as we have already seen several times this season will likely be won by very fine margins.
Using the catering analogy that is popular at the start of any rugby season, Doncaster Knights came into the delayed 2020/21 campaign as one of the more ‘oven-ready’ Championship sides.
The Knights had a trio of pre-season fixtures in the Trailfinders Cup against Ealing (twice) and Saracens. The results may have not gone their way, but the preparation left them well-placed once the league action began in early March.
Former Jersey Reds hooker and forwards coach Steve Boden, who has been with the Knights since 2019, has seen his side go unbeaten in the first block of Championship action, demonstrating an ability to achieve a result in tight matches.
On the opening weekend of the season it was a 78th-minute try by Kyle Evans, converted by Sam Olver, that secured a 17-19 win at Ampthill. This was followed by an even more narrow victory at home to Coventry: Knights led 20-7 at the break, conceded two tries around the hour mark but held on to their 20-19 advantage to full-time.
Away to Hartpury in round three, the match was also in the balance at the 60-minute mark, with the visitors a man down after a yellow card and clinging to a 21-25 advantage before a late Ben Hunter try settled the contest by a final score of 21-32.
Another tight encounter seemed inevitable when the Knights met the Cornish Pirates – also unbeaten – at Castle Park before Easter, and so it proved. Olver stepped up to land a penalty four minutes from time to make it 17-15, and that was also the final score, after Pirates’ Will Cargill missed a late chance to snatch victory.
Boden is among a sizeable former Jersey contingent at Castle Park, which also includes forwards Jerry Sexton and Conor Joyce, plus three-quarters Mark Best and James Newey. Ex-Knights duo George Edgson and Jack Roberts made the opposite journey last summer.
The Reds and Knights have developed a strong rivalry since Jersey arrived at level two in 2012, with a total of 19 encounters in league and cup since then, with 10 wins to the Island side, seven to the Yorkshiremen and two draws.
The most recent encounter was at Castle Park in February 2020, a few weeks before Covid-19 ended the 2019/20 league season, with the Knights scoring six tries to end up convincing winners by 38-10, gaining revenge for their 27-0 defeat at Stade Santander International during the opening weeks of the season.
Meet the opposition
Back-row John Kelly was a new arrival at Castle Park last summer and has taken to Knight life like a duck to water.
Recruited from Plymouth Albion in National One by Head Coach Steve Boden, the 25-year-old has flourished in a full-time environment.
Kelly has started every Championship game so far this campaign, touching down for two tries as the Knights have made an unbeaten start to the 2021 season.
Kelly was awarded Man of the Match in the Knights 17-15 victory over Cornish Pirates last time out, popping up with the game’s first try and winning a crucial penalty with time up and the Pirates threatening for a late score.
Before make the move to South Yorkshire John clocked over 50 senior appearances for Plymouth and had been selected to the Devon County side where he caught the eye of the England Counties selectors and was picked to tour Georgia in summer 2019; featuring as England drew the two-match series.
Jack Spittle had to wait a little longer than he would have hoped to make his mark on this new-look Knights team but has made up for lost time since.
The winger missed the Knights Trailfinders Challenge Cup campaign with a series of niggling injuries but has quickly played his way into the team and now seems a regular fixture on the Knights left hand side.
Impressive displays in narrow victories over Ampthill and Coventry preceded a stunning performance away at Hartpury where the 26-year-old finished two flowing, first-phase tries as Doncaster ran out 21-32 victors.
Jack signed at Castle Park from Nottingham after a fine 2019/20 campaign which saw him named in The Rugby Paper’s Team of the Season. Jack scored five tries against Yorkshire Carnegie, including the Championship Try of the Season, ending 2019/20 with ten tries in fourteen appearances.
Nottingham was Jack’s first professional club having graduated through the successful Nottingham Trent University rugby partnership. After signing ahead of the 2017/18 season, he went on to make 36 appearances with an average scoring ratio of one try in every two games.