Home   Sport   Article

Subscribe Now

Blues struggle to contend with heavyweight Winchester but McAvoy optimistic his side can compete with the league’s most physical sides

Newbury Blues head coach James McAvoy feels his side need to make some minor adjustments if they're to compete with heavier and more physical sides following their resounding 34-0 defeat at Winchester on Saturday.

Blues struggled to contend with the home side's size and power up front and the difficult, squally conditions made it difficult for McAvoy's men to gain ground and relieve pressure with their characteristically fluid ball-in-hand approach or territorial kicking.

After being dominated in the first half, a resurgent Blues took the game to their hosts after the break but were unable to capitalise despite Winchester being reduced to 13 after two quickfire yellow cards.

Blues flanker Dylan Stewart in possession. Pictures by Peter Branch
Blues flanker Dylan Stewart in possession. Pictures by Peter Branch

Yet the Blues boss wasn't too disheartened with his side's showing and believes some tactical tweaks and more favourable conditions will allow them to compete with some of the most dominant packs ahead of the second half of the season.

"Winchester were resilient, hard to score against and, one to 13, they are heavy," he said.

"The conditions helped them out even more in terms of how they could use their set-piece as a weapon.

"There's going to be knock-ons and kicking for territory, and every time that happens you're back to a set-piece drive. Their scrum and their maul are their staples, it enabled their back line to have a really easy day.

"We were dominated in some facets of the game, there's no denying that, but there were times when we problem-solved really well. We played a really up-tempo second half, we pretty much quick-tapped at every set-piece and forced them down to 13 men. We just have to really look at why we couldn't convert 13 against 15. We'd done the hard work, so it was a little bit of a missed opportunity.

"We believe we can compete with these more physical sides, and we're really looking forward to putting some of the lessons we've learned into action when we take on these teams in the reverse fixtures. There's genuinely been some real learning from each of our three defeats."

Newbury hooker Harry Waye-Branch flies into a tackle
Newbury hooker Harry Waye-Branch flies into a tackle

Blues welcome Tottonians, another side dominated by a number of powerful forwards, to Monks Lane this weekend. Despite their recent history of struggling with more physical sides, McAvoy is confident his team can make adjustments that will allow them to compete ahead of the visit of the Hampshire side.

He said: "If there was a blueprint of how to beat Newbury, then Winchester have just demonstrated it.

"We need to be aware that teams might target us in those areas.

"At times at the weekend, I felt we got the better of the territorial kicking contest. What we need to realise is that, when there's a chance to go on the counter, we want to run and start our phase play. A lineout is effectively a 50-50, so we want to up the ball in play time and keep the ball in our hands as much as possible. We want to adapt so that we can play to our super-strengths.

"Look at the likes of Fiji and Portugal in the World Cup. Not to say we're underdogs in the sense they were, but against those powerful sides they managed to keep the ball in play and mitigate what some of the bigger sides do so well."

After Tottonians, Blues welcome runaway league leaders Jersey, who put 50 points past second-placed London Irish Wild Geese at the weekend, on November 18. Despite their formidable reputation McAvoy insists his side, who were the only team to push last year's unbeaten champions Marlborough, will relish the challenge.

He said: "Those are the kind of games that the boys love.

"We're learning all the time, the boys have shown great mental resolve, and we look forward to every game and believe we can win."

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More