Maidenhead RFC are one or two steps away from being league champions, according to their departing head coach Russell Bolton.
Bolton was forced to lick his wounds after Saturday’s 29-10 defeat to leaders Bournemouth left them playing catch up to Barnstaple for a play-off spot.
Maids showed in flashes on Saturday what they’re capable of, especially in the first half when Ed Keohane’s classy kick over the top was touched down by a flying Dylan Baptista.
But those moments were too few and far between to seriously challenge Bournemouth for the points and, at times, their decision-making in key moments let them down too.
“That’s where we are as a side,” said Bolton, who is set to leave because of work commitments at the end of the season.
“The potential this group of players has is that they could be the best side in the league.
“But it’s about consistency; it’s about being settled and not making the little errors.
“Bournemouth have won the league this year, not because they’ve pumped everyone but because they know how to win games. They know how to control the other team and control games.
“That’s the benchmark we need to work to.
“We’re a very talented side who are one or two steps away from being league champions but we’re not there yet.”
Maids didn’t lose their heads at Bournemouth, with Bolton commenting that they were calmer than last weekend’s
45-10 win over Barnstaple.
But they didn’t play smart rugby and couldn’t hold off the Lions’ when they got a scent of the try line.
Bolton said: “I think we were calmer than last week but I think our decision-making was a bit poor. I don’t think it was a mental thing. Decision-making, we picked the wrong option a few times.
“They were flying up on Coley (Dave Cole), they’d identified him in the week as a major threat and they dealt with him very well. We should have used that as a decoy and played around him at times.
“Our handling wasn’t as crisp as it was last week.
“That doesn’t mean we can’t do it, but you can’t drop a beat against these guys.
“Any other team in the league and you might win that game but not these guys. They deserve to be champions and were excellent today.”
On the challenge of chasing down Barnstaple – who now hold a three-point advantage over Maids in the race for second – Bolton added: “We’ve got to keep going. We’ve got a big game next week against Bracknell. Who knows what will happen? They’ve (Barnstaple) got an easier run in but that doesn’t mean they won’t slip up. It doesn’t mean they won’t drop bonus points and we could pick them up.
“There’s still everything to play for. You’ve got to keep going. We capitulated after the game down here last season and lost by a point. We’ve got two games left and we’ve got to bounce back and show what a good side we are. I don’t want to finish my time here with a second loss to Bracknell at home. I think that would be massively disappointing.
“Look at where they (Bracknell) are in the league. They’re not a threatening side but they do raise it significantly when they play us and we’ve got to be aware of that.”