McAvoy feeling the winter Blues but focusing on the big picture after disappointing Wimborne defeat
Newbury Blues head coach James McAvoy admits he is having to re-evaluate his aims for the second half of the season after his side fell to a fifth successive defeat, losing 48-24 at home to Wimborne.
An out-of-sorts Blues opted to play against the wind, which was strong enough to be a considerable factor, in the first half and found themselves 24-7 down at half time.
However, with the conditions in their favour after the break, the hosts drew level and looked to be the hot favourites to win the game heading into the final 20 minutes thanks to tries from Will Osborne, Kris Ford and Toby Thorne as well as nine points from the boot of skipper Dan Thorne.
Yet Blues imploded in the final quarter of the contest and were unable to contend with a number of powerful Wimborne runners as the visitors ran in four unanswered tries to return to Dorset with a bonus point win, leaving McAvoy left to reflect on another disappointing afternoon.
“We were pretty happy going into the game. We saw the conditions in the warm-up and, after a conversation with some of the senior players, decided to go against the wind in the first half,” he said.
“We weren’t too disappointed at half time, although we were frustrated with the final try we conceded. We shot ourselves in the foot and it isn’t the first time that’s happened.
“In the second half, we had the wind in our favour and the momentum was with us after we got back to 24-all.
“In the last 15 minutes it all flipped, I’m not sure if we thought we had the game won.
“Our tackling was a real issue. They had four or five runners that we’d identified in the week, so nothing was a surprise.
“You’ve got to have a want to put yourself in the firing line of someone who is 18 stone and six foot five and make shots two-man, and that was the difference.”
Since beating high-flying London Irish Wild Geese in October, Blues have endured a difficult run of five defeats on the bounce, shipping 198 points and scoring just 39.
With his side now languishing in eighth, McAvoy admits his pre-season aim of a top three finish is now beyond his side’s reach. However, with almost half the season still to play, the Blues boss feels there’s still a lot at stake as he looks to help his charges return to winning ways.
He said: “If I’m honest, I think I’m not necessarily thinking week-by-week anymore.
“My role as head of rugby, with no director of sport above me, means that I’m also concerned with the longer term future of the club.
“We’re aware we’re not going to finish in and around that top three.
“If you’re not going up and you’re not going down, then there’s still a lot to learn from being in the middle of the table.
“We can zoom out and look at the bigger picture, so it’s an opportunity for us.”
With senior players Dylan Stewart and Jamie Futcher, who was playing his 199th Blues game, both being forced off with injuries, McAvoy confirmed he will continue to blood young talent over the coming months.
Sebastian Burgess, who made his debut on Saturday, was the latest in a long line of players to be promoted from within Newbury’s ranks to the first team.
“We’ve been unlucky with injuries, and now Jamie’s going to be out for two or three weeks,” McAvoy said.
“We had a real scare with Dylan, although we think it’s just a bad concussion and we’re wishing him all the best.
“I was really pleased with Seb. His dad was there at the lunch beforehand and it was a special moment for him and his family.
“There will be opportunities for other players. We've got a lot of good players coming through and there’s a few that we’ve identified in the Stags team that we think could do with the experience.”
Blues will be hoping to return to winning ways with a trip to sixth placed Farnham, who won the reverse at Monks Lane 47-24, this weekend.