04:32PM, Monday 08 November 2021
From the outside looking in, Saturday's 26-12 defeat at Havant was a disappointing one for a Maidenhead side looking to build on their thumping 54-12 win over CS Stags the previous weekend.
But head coach David Mobbs-Smith believes it was one of the side's best performances of the season, certainly away from Braywick Park, and says they're starting to look like a more competitive outfit in the London & South East Premier Division.
With every week that goes by this young group of players are learning and adapting to rugby in this division, playing at an intensity they weren't accustomed to in the South West leagues.
Once again, they began well at Havant, and were pushing for an early try themselves, when an error gifted the hosts a chance to run the length of the field and score a converted try.
If that sounds like the story of Maidenhead's season, Mobbs-Smith readily admits that it is. But, tellingly, they also absorbed plenty of pressure and refused to buckle, before battling back in the second half with two tries of their own.
Had they converted both of those tries, and taken one or two other presentable opportunities, they might well have been celebrating their first away win. Their momentum in the second half was also checked by a couple of yellow cards.
The result leaves Maids third from bottom, four points adrift of Brighton in 11th.
“They got a lead, but for most of the first half it was 14-0, and then they got another try to make it 21-0,” said Mobbs-Smith. “But from that point on it was us hunting them down.
“There was some great defensive stuff to keep it like that, but for most of the second half we were chasing them down, but we just ran out of time really.
“We also had two yellow cards which just hindered us at a crucial time.
“The game was a good one in the second half and the boys played really well. We won the second half and were looking like the most likely team to score again, even in the final minutes.
“We felt we could win the game at half-time. We had a bit of wind with us in the second half and we felt we could maybe hunt these guys down.
“We had a real go in the second half, but they just had a little bit too much on the scoreboard. They’re very effective at what they do, and that’s why they are where they are in the league. but it was still our best performance on the road this season and arguably one of our best performances of the season, even though we lost the game.”
Reflecting on another close game which just went the way of Havant. Mobbs-Smith believes there's very little between a host of teams in the division, and, while he admits Maids aren't quite on par with them yet, he says the gap is closing with every game they play.
“We made a fast start again,” said Mobbs-Smith. “We were there, in their half, but we made an error, and they ran the length of the field to score a try. It's pretty much the story of our season. We put pressure on teams, we make a mistake, they get a score, and it puts us under pressure. So, we were there or there abouts. We had a couple of good chances to score and on another day, it would have been even closer.
“It was that kind of game. A lot of players put in some very good performances and with the yellow cards we had to make some adjustments. It wasn't easy to play with those players off the field.
“These things happen sometimes in rugby, you make an error, and you get carded. Or it’s a culmination of penalties and someone then gets a card, even if it’s their first error.”
He added: “That's where we are now. We're more competitive in these games but now we've got to turn these competitive performances into wins and that's not easy in this league.”
Maidenhead will be confident of chalking up a third league win at home to Sidcup on Saturday, but the visitors will also fancy their chances having beaten Tring 30-28 on Saturday.
“Sidcup hadn't won many games until this week and then they went and beat one of the teams in the top half. It’s a very competitive league with very little between sides. At the moment we’re just not quite closing that gap, but I expect us to do that with every game we play.”