05:12PM, Monday 06 June 2016
(First published in the Maidenhead Advertiser on Thursday, April 7)
I trust my gut's reaction to certain incidents and scenarios that I witness, and my gut's telling me that Maidenhead RFC will have learned more about themselves after losing to Newbury on Saturday than from any other match they have played this season.
As head coach Russell Bolton said afterwards there are mental, tactical and technical issues to address after Maids held victory in their grasp at 17-3 only to lose 25-20 to the Blues.
For the the home fans at Monks Lane it was a highly entertaining match which improved with age, while for the Maids faithful watching on, it was a more sobering occasion.
For the neutral – if you can call me that – the outcome of the match felt like a pivotal moment for Maids.
Had they clung on to win by a point or two, many of the lessons to be learned may have been put aside or ignored.
Victory over a Newbury side who were unbeaten at home would have been Maids’ best of the campaign, and it would have been easy to have celebrated it accordingly and maybe ignore any warning signals.
However, a defeat to a late try and their directionless performance in the second half will focus the minds of players and management.
Once the hurt has subsided, Maids will come out of this a stronger unit.
This match and result was the stress test that their mettle required, by a team which seems to have many similarities to their own. Allan Greene, Maids’ head coach from the previous two seasons, always said that Newbury’s new approach on and off the field (now that the money they received for selling their old ground has long since gone) is one Maids would do well to repiicate.
I concur. Newbury’s rise to third in South West 1 East has taken a few seasons and been done on no, or virtually no, playing budget.
But they are now an effective, attractive, versatile and skilful side who know how to consistently win games of rugby.
Maids have the potential to be this good and better, Newbury's head coach Lee Goodall said as much after the match.
Maids have been rebuilding since the summer and that will continue for quite some time.
But they are on the right path.
If the lessons are learned, I expect to see Maids’ star rising, but it will take time and no little commitment from the players.
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