Thu, 28 Feb 2019
NEWBURY Blues are reaping the benefits of putting their faith in youth.
Blues are 15 points clear at the top of South West 1 East with just six games to go – well on course for a rapid return to South West Premier rugby after a year’s absence.
And Blues are doing it on a relative shoestring budget, turning to the core of their successful Colts team of 2010/11.
Head coach Paul Archer said: “We haven’t spent any money because we haven’t got any money to spend!
“But we have been very lucky. Rewind the clock to 2010/11 and we had a really good Colts set-up – the side went on to reach the semi-finals of the Colts cup.
“The core of that squad stayed together and it is now the backbone of the squad.
“Players like Alex Sparkes, Max Hayman, James Lewis and Dylan Stewart are still young, but they’ve put together a lot of appearances for the first team.
“For me, it’s a great indictment of the club, for all the good work that goes on up and down the age groups.”
Last season Blues were desperately unlucky to go down from South West Premier, despite finishing just five points behind fifth-placed Bracknell.
But they look to be on their way back – and the feelgood factor is spreading throughout the club.
Archer said: “We are not just about the first team.
“The Stags and the A team are both doing very well and we have got quality throughout the senior squad.”
Blues can take another giant stride towards the South West 1 East title on Saturday when they host third-from-bottom Witney (3pm).
However, there’s no complacency at Monks Lane as Blues bid to bounce back from their first defeat of the season when they lost 26-24 to Marlborough on February 16.
Archer said: “We’ve had a very restful and productive week.
“We have focussed on skill-based stuff rather than doing a lot of running and big-impact sessions.
“It’s been nice to have a bit of time off to reflect after the Marlborough game.
“One thing I have noticed this season is that when we play teams for a second time this season, they do not play like in the first games.
“Some of them have changed their game to combat our style, whereas we continue to play the same way and play to our strengths.”
Although Blues are well clear at the top, Archer is still taking nothing for granted.
Witney come to Monks Lane desperate for the points to give themselves hope of beating the drop.
And Archer said: “Witney will be fighting for their lives.
“They will come here with 18 men wanting to win and we will be the same – it will be won by whoever plays to their potential.”
Witney put up a real fight before eventually succumbing in the home match in November.
They led only 10-0 at half-time before stepping up the pressure in the second half to romp home 53-10.
Any sort of win this week, though, would set Blues in good stead for the following week, when they entertain second-placed Old Centralians.