Lots to learn from Tottonians defeat as McAvoy says Blues will relish visit of all-conquering Jersey
Newbury Blues slipped to a second successive defeat at the weekend as they were beaten 29-10 at home to Tottonians.
After finding themselves 15-0 down at the break, the hosts hit back when blindside flanker Harry Bedford powered over but the visitors rallied to secure a bonus point as Newbury were condemned to back-to-back defeats, despite five second half points from the boot of skipper Dan Thorne.
Yet head coach James McAvoy wasn’t too disappointed and feels his side are continuing to show consistent improvement despite their recent run of indifferent results.
“Every game we’ve lost, there’s been some key learning and there’s actually been some real key bounce back as well,” he said.
“Again, we saw that this week. After Winchester, we spoke about the set-piece and how we could avoid being dominated, because Tottonians have a similarly physical pack.
“We trained really well and we problem solved, I think the way we adapted was fantastic. Both scrum and lineout operated really well.
“Defensively, we nullified some of their strengths around their carry. We’ve just got to look at now, when that big team get into our 22, how we can make sure we avoid feeling like it’s inevitable that we’re going to concede. That’s something we can work on.
“From an attack point of view, we were disappointed not to put more scores on the board. I think, territory and continuity-wise, we were in a good place.
“Our key word this week is going to be execution. In training, rather than just going through plays, we want to actually have that feeling of physically putting the ball down over the line.
“I think there’s something quite powerful about that, a bit like in football when the ball hits the back of the net.
“We’re disappointed, we had to chase the game a bit at the end, but overall the general feeling between players and management is that there’s an upward curve on learning – and that’s the most important thing.”
It’s not about to get any easier for McAvoy’s side. Blues welcome league leaders Jersey, who make the short trip across the Channel to Monks Lane this Saturday. Jersey, who beat Winchester 47-25 last time out, have won all nine of their Regional 2 South Central matches so far, scoring 408 points in the process.
It almost feels like an unwinnable game, with Jersey boasting a number of Championship players after their first team folded over the summer.
Yet Blues have a history of rising to the big occasion, pushing an equally dominant Marlborough to their limit last year and inflicting a first defeat of the season on free-scoring London Irish Wild Geese last month.
And McAvoy already senses a mood amongst his squad that suggests Newbury will make it hard for their opponents once again.
He said: “I’ve had a load of boys message me putting their hand up for selection this week.
“The boys are really up for it, and everyone’s really excited that Jersey are coming down.
“There’s been a little bit of conversation between clubs about the amount of Championship players that have dropped down to join.
“Of course, that’s met with a little bit of trepidation – and rightly so – but at the same time everyone’s really excited to see what that looks like.
“Players are excited to test themselves against their calibre, and from a coaching perspective I’m really looking forward to seeing how me and the team adapt.
“We’ll have our gameplan, but it is going to be a bit more of a one-off gameplan. This is one game in a long season, and there are a lot of battles.
“We’ll still play our own game, and I’m sure we’ll get a lot of learning from it.”