01:00PM, Monday 01 November 2021
England head coach, Eddie Jones, once told Maidenhead’s players ‘the beer tastes better when you win’, and, after what’s been a difficult start to life in the London & South East league for Maids, it certainly will have tasted sweet following Saturday’s 54-12 victory over CS Stags.
Both sides have struggled for form this season, with the Stags coming into the game as the only team with a worse record than Maids.
After six defeats from their opening seven matches, and a dispiriting 45-13 loss at Westcombe Park still fresh in the memory, many were predicting a tricky game for Maids.
However, the hosts showed little evidence of a loss of confidence as they set about dismantling their rivals.
In Christoph Bart, Ed Keohane and Ben Mitchell they had runners capable of breaking the CS Stags’ backline, but in truth, Maidenhead were superior in pretty much every department as they ran in eight tries.
The pressure has been lifted somewhat by news that there will be no relegation from the league this season and coach Will Greenwood said the pre-match message to the players was to ‘just go out and play’.
“I don’t think we ever lost our confidence,” he said.
“There have been moments of self-reflection, where we feel we haven’t performed as well as we can.
“But we said to the boys, ‘don’t worry about results’, just go out and play.
“Why did they start playing as kids, because they loved played with their mates and for their local club.
“The beer tastes better when you win, which is what Eddie Jones told us when he came down here.
“They just found that energy today and, yeah, it was sort of a perfect game for us at home against a team that’s been in a similar position to us this season.
“We weren’t ever 3/10 when we were getting stuffed, and we weren’t 9/10 today, and sometimes you have to find that balance in life, so you don’t go up and down and get too emotional about things.”
He added: “I was just really pleased. There were a lot of Maidenhead boys out there, young Maidenhead boys who have come up through the ranks and now have a taste of what it’s like and that was a good win for them.”
Maids have been working in recent weeks to alter their defensive structure, to avoid being overrun in broken play, and for the most part on Saturday the Stags were repelled by a brick wall of black and magenta. However, World Cup winner Greenwood believes Saturday’s win was more about the high energy, intensity, and cohesion they brought to the game from the first whistle.
“Of course, you’re always trying to work on technicalities to improve,” he said. “But the reality is that too often this season we’ve been slow out of the blocks and gone in ones and twos when we should have gone in units or packs.
“There have been spells in games when our energy has been low but today, we hunted in threes and fours and kept the energy high.
“The reality is that the win was grounded on desire and energy. The beauty of rugby is that if you turn up with that sort of energy every week, you can beat anyone.”
Saturday’s victory lifted Maids to 12th above Tunbridge Wells, the only other side they’ve beaten this season. They’ll be tougher tests to come, starting at mid-table Havant on Saturday, but Greenwood says the players have now set standards which must be met over the remainder of the campaign.
“We found ourselves paralysed with fear and making errors trying to find this utopian, perfect rugby,” he said. “So, we asked them ‘why do you play?’, because you like scoring tries and taking players on. If there’s no one in front of you run, if there’s someone in front of you, pass it to someone else. That was all.
“They were great today, and it was really enjoyable to watch. The good news for us as coaches is that we can now demand those standards from them because at times we haven’t quite hit those heights.
“The table doesn’t lie. We were the two bottom of the table teams and there will be much sterner tests, but hopefully we can find that energy and cohesion again when we’re on the backfoot, when things are going against us or when we’re 15 points down, which we inevitably will be.”