All Rhoads lead to success as Ali hat-trick helps Blues to Wimborne win
Newbury Blues made it two Regional 2 South Central wins from two with a 13-45 victory over Wimborne.
A hat-trick from Oli Rhoads, two from Jonny Lees and tries from Alex Du Sautoy and Josh Winfield helped Blues to a second bonus point win in succession, taking them to the top of the league for the first time this term.
Blues overcame difficult weather conditions during a long drive down to Dorset but, much like last week’s win over Reading, were soon firing on all cylinders to ease to a seven-try triumph in the south west.
And head coach James McAvoy was pleased with another strong showing from his side, who have shown more than enough to suggest that they could be capable of challenging for promotion this season.
“We’re really pleased,” he said.
“We said before the game that there would be no excuses, we wanted to make sure we didn’t let external circumstances impact our performance on the pitch.
“Overall, the game had a similar flow to last week.
“Wimborne, like most teams, had a lot of energy at the start of the game.
“We weathered that initial five or 10 minutes and controlled a lot of the game after that.
“We were very good with the ball in hand, we were pretty strong in defence and we’re very happy with another bonus point win.”
McAvoy’s side are in a much better position than this time last year, when Blues lost all of their first three matches, including a bruising 50-3 defeat to eventual champions Marlborough.
While he admits he won’t be getting carried away, McAvoy has been impressed with how his charges have acquitted themselves in the opening fortnight of the new campaign.
He said: “Of course, you’d rather be in the position we are now.
“A lot of it depends on how the fixtures are drawn, and we had some very difficult games at the start of last season.
“With respect to the two teams we’ve played, we think there are stronger teams in the league and that there will be more difficult tests to come.
“We’re happy with how we’ve transitioned through from pre-season, we’re delighted with how we’ve adapted to the new tackle laws and we’ve problem-solved really well in difficult moments, so it’s a good start.”
McAvoy was full of praise for centre Oli Rhoads, who scored his first Blues hat-trick at the weekend.
“Oli’s been fantastic since we acquired him last season,” he said.
“He’s Hartpury trained, so he comes from good pedigree, and he’s really brought into the team since he’s come here.
“His confidence is growing and growing, and the way we want to play rugby really lends itself to his style.
“He’s one of the first names on the team sheet at the moment and we’re really pleased with his development.”
Meanwhile, there were milestones for skipper Dan Thorne, who was celebrating his 250th Blues cap, and Dylan Stewart, who was making his 100th appearance.
Thorne marked a momentous afternoon with five out of seven successful conversions while Stewart has impressed in the back row since returning last week following an 18-month absence with a serious injury sustained in a game against Sherborne.
McAvoy said: “We’re a tight-knit group, and it was special to be able to share that moment with the two lads.
“Dan remembers all his milestones, where he was when he won his 50th, 100th, 150th and 200th cap, and he’s a brilliant player and a fantastic captain.
“Dylan, who has come back from surgery and adapted as well as he has, has been superb.
“It’s testament to both boys that they’ve earned all their caps, and it was an honour to be able to be involved in a little part in their Blues journey.
“We’ve created a good environment where people want to come and play their rugby, and so I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Paul Archer and some of the other coaches who have come before.”
Blues welcome Farnham, who are winless in their first two games, to Monks Lane this Saturday but McAvoy is expecting a stern test from the Surrey side.
“We think Farnham will be difficult,” he said.
“They’ve played London Irish Wild Geese and Winchester, who we think will be two of the best sides in the league.
“We feel like we’re a lot better than last season, and winning is a good habit to get into.”