Having negotiated our way through a tricky semi-final, we’re pleased to be at the final hurdle and looking forward to the first leg on Wednesday.
It’s good that the two sides that finished first and second will face one another in the Championship final – both teams deserve to be there for their performances throughout a long and gruelling campaign.
Credit to Doncaster Knights, they’re a physical, well-drilled side who have given us two of our toughest tests during the regular season. We can’t read too much into those results now, because the atmosphere and anticipation surrounding knockout rugby brings its own pressures and challenges.
Throughout this process, we have been concentrating on ourselves and what we need to do to achieve results. It’s been a constant focus on the processes of our game and getting it right in the key areas.
Castle Park is not an easy place to go, so we must be prepared from the opening minute. The way we have performed all season away from home gives us confidence because, as we have shown, when our backs are against the wall, we have the composure and trust in our roles to come out fighting and get the job done.
It’s important we start well in the first leg. We aren’t looking any further than that. It’s the opening eighty minutes that we are focusing on because we need to ensure we get our performance right. That means we need to be solid defensively and have a strong set piece.
These are the games that we have been building towards all season so the guys are excited about what is to come. There is a spring in everybody’s step at training, we’re enjoying our rugby and looking forward to Wednesday’s game.
I’ve been proud of the way the players have handled the scrutiny and spotlight of play-off rugby. We have been humble in our approach, professional and diligent in our preparation and it’s translated to two good performances in the semi-finals.
That same attitude and dedication to the cause must carry through into the first leg in South Yorkshire. Whoever is lucky enough to pull on the Bristol shirt, they know they have a job to do, understand their roles and have proven already that when called upon, they are more than capable of performing to a high standard.
The support at Ashton Gate in the second leg was magnificent. It was a wall of noise and the fans got behind us from start to finish. We are playing for them and we are striving for success for them. We know that there will be as many Bristol supporters at Castle Park as there will be home fans and that’s a huge boost for everybody involved in the club.
The occasion or the emotion of the final won’t overawe us. It’s another game and a job to do. We want to put ourselves in the best possible position after the first leg, so it’s vital we execute our roles and convert our opportunities when we get them.