FIRST off, I hope you all had a good Christmas and a Happy New Year.
So, after an enforced four-week lay-off due to the weather conditions and the festive period, we returned to action on Saturday with our first return fixture, against Old Albanians.
We were all looking forward to getting back into the swing of things and actually playing some rugby. There had been no let-up in the training schedule over this time, including a memorable hill running session on New Year’s Eve, which certainly blew some of the cobwebs away.
This week we had a full squad to pick from which I’m sure caused some selection headaches. Finlay returned to the second row and Richard Briggs started on the wing, having recovered from his shoulder injury and Mickey Pointing came onto the bench after returning to the club.
Since we last met Old Albanians, which resulted in a hard-fought victory for the Raiders, OAs’ have been doing well and gained some good results at home, so consequently were sitting above us in the table.
The game itself started brightly with both sides wanting to play fast open running rugby.
After some good pressure we got on the scoresheet when Rob barged his way over, following a good catch and drive.
Unfortunately, straight from the kick-off we made a mistake that put us under pressure, a few phases later we managed to force the OAs player into touch. What followed should have been a simple catch, drive and box kick, instead as a forward pack we managed to muck this up, allowing the ball to be stolen and the opposition scrum half to run in untouched.
This was to be a theme for the day, our defence held strong under some direct hard running from the OAs team but then we would make a silly mistake or cough the ball up cheaply and we would be punished on the scoreboard.
When we kept the ball and built the phases, we looked dangerous and scored some great tries. The last and bonus point try being the best going to Sam Hewick, after we kept the ball through 10 phases of play
There were a lot of positives to take out of this game but it was still a disappointing result and one that we are kicking ourselves that we let slip.
The other results this week saw wins for Ealing, Richmond, Dings, Jersey, Lydney and surprise wins for Clifton and Hinckley.
This coming Saturday we welcome Hinckley to the rugby ground. They will be full of confidence, having got a good win on Saturday against Shelford.
Regardless of league position, we will be treating this game like all the others. It is a massively important fixture for us as we look to get back to winning ways.
We hope to see as many of you up at the club as possible.