Brett Davey has credited Ulster Rugby with fielding an extremely strong side in the Knights’ 39-7 British and Irish Cup defeat in Belfast.
“The Ravens put out a very good side; they had 11 players who have played at Magners League level for Ulster’s first team. They have incredible strength in depth whereas we had to rest a lot of key players. I was told that Ulster will not have the chance to field that XV in this competition again this season.”
Davey handed starts to several of his fringe players to give them the chance to state their case for Championship selection, and was rewarded with a confident performance from debutant centre Fred Burdon in his first appearance in a Knights shirt.
“Andy Brown did well at prop, and Andy Boyde’s work-rate was good too. Fred did well on his first start, but as a team we just started slowly and struggled to catch up. Our replacements, who have a lot more experience, changed the game but it was too late by then.”
Despite the defeat, the Knights remain top of their group and are likely to progress to the quarter-finals of the competition if they beat Swansea at Castle Park on December 17 and other results are in their favour. Davey has pledged to field his strongest possible team in the pre-Christmas clash to ensure the Knights remain committed to the Cup.
The DOR is confident the result will not have a bearing on preparations for this Saturday’s Championship derby fixture against Rotherham Titans at Clifton Lane as his regular league starters return to the side:-
“This was always going to be a tough month for us - we got caught by unfortunate circumstances in Ulster and it will not affect our Championship prospects. There are still positives to take from our recent performances- David McIlwaine is developing into a good kicker which reduces the pressure on Mike Whitehead and Tom Luke.”
Davey added that the injury to winger Michael Keating is not as serious as first feared, and that sidelined Adam Kettle is targeting the Swansea match for his return to action, although fly-half Mike Whitehead is not expected to be fit until the new year.
“Keating is having a scan this week but if it’s a 50/50 call we won’t risk him.”