07:00PM, Tuesday 28 September 2021
You'd have thought optimism and positivity would be in short supply at Maidenhead RFC after kicking off their London & South East Premier Division with four straight defeats.
However, head coach David Mobbs-Smith was far from down as he reflected on the latest of them, Saturday's 27-18 defeat to Tring.
Yes, Maids were far from perfect, and it's clear they're still adjusting to the pace and style of the London league against teams they've never come up against before. However, Mobbs-Smith believes there are sure signs his players are getting to grips with their opponents, as well as each other.
He doesn’t think it would have taken much, the odd kind bounce of the ball or stray pass, for the side to have picked up a couple of victories from their opening four matches.
They've also played the league's three top sides in Wimbledon, Dorking and North Walsham and Mobbs-Smith believes only Dorking, who defeated them 43-20 two weeks ago, could claim to have comprehensively had the upper hand.
In short, he says they're working on tidying up a few weaknesses, improving their discipline, which cost them dearly against Tring on Saturday, and are hopeful the rub of the green will go their way when Tunbridge Wells visit Braywick Park this Saturday.
“We've played some of the top sides so far,” he said. “They (Wimbledon, Dorking and North Walsham) are one, two and three in the league at the moment.
“This weekend we were down 14-6 and made a great comeback to be leading 18-17, but then just a couple of mistakes at the end let them in to win the game.
“There were some great performances though, especially from some of our youngsters who really stood out. We also had a couple of strong performances from our old war horses as well, so this weekend was very promising.
“We just didn’t quite get the result but the performance in the second half was good. It was two tries each, it’s just that they got a few more penalties and kicked them over.”
Again, the fine margins seemed to go against Maids at a crucial stage of the game, just as they looked to turn the screw and claim a battling away victory.
Having had the edge in possession and territory, a couple of sloppy infringements let Tring off the hook, according to the head coach, and gave them some much needed breathing space when they'd been under the pump.
It was a similar story against North Walsham on the opening day, when Maids held the lead and were looking to add to it, only for a couple of handling errors to hand the initiative back to the visitors.
“It was just the odd penalty on Saturday, and it gave them a release when they were under pressure,” said Mobbs-Smith.
“The Tring game wasn't a million miles from what we saw against Walsham. They just got a penalty at a crucial time, and it gave them the lead and then there were a couple of errors after that which gave them the opportunity to score again late on.
“But I can’t fault the effort and performance at the weekend as it was good. We've got new guys who are bedding in, (Will) Macaulay and (Jamie) Townsend, two of the older brigade playing well and Todd Muil was excellent on Saturday. Against Dorking we were comprehensively outplayed, but in the other matches we've been competitive, and you're thinking, if we can do that again in a match, we might get a couple of decisions and momentum could go our way.
“They (Tring) made a couple of mistakes on Saturday, but the ball bounced into their hands rather than ours.
“On another day it bounces into your hands, and you score and think you’re the world champions, but actually it’s come down to luck. Against Walsham and Tring, you could argue we might have won had the ball bounced slightly differently in a couple of scenarios. In the other two matches the margin of their victory shows that wouldn't have been the case.”
Those four defeats, ill-deserved or otherwise, have left Maids second bottom of the league on the same number of points (one) as bottom club CS Stags 1863 who have played only three matches.
However, Mobbs-Smith doesn't believe there's a great deal between a lot of the teams in the division and he's confident they'll start climbing the table fairly soon.
“The league looks pretty even, possibly with Wimbledon, Dorking and North Walsham the exception,” he said. “They seem to be winning by bigger margins, but, if we can get that win under our belts and a little belief in the team, we should be competitive in most of our games.
“It’s a long season and we have found it a little bit trickier to play in this league just simply because of the style of play. The other teams are used to each other, and will have played each other many times before, whereas for us it’s a new experience, but that’s also adding to the thrill of the league.”