12:00PM, Thursday 07 April 2022
Niall Crosley. Credit: www.paulmorganphoto.co.uk
Maidenhead's resilience and belief were perfectly illustrated in the opening minutes of Saturday's 36-14 away win at Sutton & Epsom, as David Mobbs-Smith's side recovered from an early set back to register a third straight away win.
The victory lifted Maids to eighth in the London & South East Premier Division table but they're currently playing with the form of a team that should be much higher in the standings.
Having swatted aside a competitive Brighton side at Braywick Park the previous week, they travelled to Sutton full of confidence, but that early optimism was pricked when the hosts were awarded a penalty try inside the first 30 seconds.
The Maids of old might have allowed such a decision to get under their skin, and their game plan might also have fallen apart. But this version of the club are made of sterner stuff, so they simply swatted aside the set back and responded with a try of their own through Scott Prince just a minute later.
They then went on to dominate the first half and early stages of the second half, sealing a bonus point win with tries from Niall Crosley, Alex French, Jack Hill, and Smiles-Tyson.
“It was brilliant really,” said Mobbs-Smith. “They got a penalty try within 30 seconds, so we were 7-0 down and it wasn’t even a minute.
“But amazingly, we scored within the next minute, to make it 7-7.
“That’s where we are now as opposed to where we were pre-Christmas.
“There’s more to the side, there’s more edge to the team, more fight to the team, there’s more belief in the team.
“Now they just bat away that kind of setback and go out and do the business.
“They just keep applying the pressure and at the moment we’re playing well.
Like all teams in this division, Sutton have had some creditable results this season, and came into Saturday's clash having beaten Tring 21-20 away from home.
They've also taken the scalp of Wimbledon this season, so Maids were right to take Sutton’s challenge seriously, but, like they've done to so many other sides recently, they quickly worked out their weaknesses and exploited them to the full. The backs may have scored the lion's share of the tries on Saturday, but Mobbs-Smith once again pointed to the work of the forwards for laying the groundwork for victory and making their teammates 'look good'.
“This team beat Wimbledon, so they're not mugs,” said Mobbs-Smith.
“The first try saw Scott Prince make a brilliant line break in the wide channels and then finish it off.
“That got us back to 7-7 but it helped us get our belief back and the game was only two minutes old.
“There’s a belief now that if we move the ball and attack in different channels, we can be successful.
“The forwards have improved dramatically in the set piece and that’s given us a platform to play off which has made the backs look a lot better.
“There’s been a huge improvement in the forward’s set piece, we’re now dominating scrums and having a high percentage of success in the lineout, so the forwards have given us that platform and, like is often the case in rugby, they’ve made the backs look very good.”
He added: “Our fitness has improved, so now, when teams come at us in the second half, we can handle it.
“They liberated their play and started attacking from distance.
“We were able to absorb that pressure and make last ditch tackles, all the things you’re able to do when you’re fitter.”
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