Wednesday, November 28, 2012
After the 13-13 draw and overall superb performance at London Irish we ran a number of questions past Cockles director of rugby Chris Wright - here’s his thoughts.
What was the journey up to London like?
“The journey to London was a long one and, once there we had a 90 minute build up to the game itself so it was certainly not a day for the faint hearted.”
How confident were you prior to the game?
“Twelve months ago we would not have had the wherewithal to bag a result like a 13-13 draw at London Irish. That’s not meant with any disrespect to previous Exmouth teams. It’s another feature that a team grows into and it shows just how far we have developed that we can send a team a long old haul up to South West London and not only stand our ground, but actually come mighty close to winning.”
How close to winning the game were the Cockles?
“We were mighty close to winning the game. In the last 15 to 20 minutes we were camped inside their 22. We strung together a series of phases, some as long as 10 and 15 moves whilst others were as many as 20 plus movements. We certainly got very close indeed, but it’s a very good side we were trying hard to break down and it’s testament to how good they are that they stood firm when many a lesser side would surely have capitulated.”
Was there a single moment when you felt the game might be won?
“Indeed there was and we would surely have taken victory had we been awarded what I felt was a very giveable penalty inside the final minute and a half of the contest! At that stage of the game we were pressing them deeper and deeper back when they opted for the early hit which is normally penalised with a penalty. Given that it was between the post it would have been a simple kick for Andrew Powell to send over and the victory would have been ours. I don’t blame the referee for not awarding it. He opted not to give a penalty and so be it. The thing is that it’s the norm in such situations, and happens in all sports that when a game nears its conclusion, if there’s a moment when it could, go either way, the benefit of the doubt always seems to swing with the home team.”
What pleased you most about the performance?
“What pleased me most about the overall performance in the game was the way we were able to keep the ball. We retained possession for long periods and that’s key to any successful rugby team. Not only do lengthy periods of possession enhance your chances of getting points on the board, they also, in tight games, draw frustration out of opposition sides and that in turn leads to point scoring opportunities. We kept the ball very well at London Irish. I was also delighted with the scrummaging which, throughout the contest, was of the highest order. We gave their scrum a right royal nailing and it got to the stage in the game where we were relishing scrums, such was our dominance in that area. They (London Irish) were unable to win their own ball in the scrum!”
What was the single biggest factor on the day from a Cockles perspective?
“The single biggest factor on the day was composure. We are renowned at Exmouth for our backs play and also the power of our forwards. However, a vital component in any good team, throughout sport, is composure. Be that composure to know when to clinically finish a side off and also composure as to when to dig in and provide support in all areas of the pitch. That composure in support comes straight off the training ground. It’s built around understanding and it both evolves an develops over a period of time in hours of sessions on the training ground and that’s what we showed in abundance on Saturday There was a real understanding an unity about all aspects of our play and that was very, very pleasing to see.”
Apart from the draw, what else did the team take out of the meeting?
“Visits to London Irish are what players at our level should aspire to and there should, be no need to motivate individuals for such trips. That was certainly the case in our side; they were clearly champing at the bit to test themselves against the best at our level. I think what they will, have realised is that we now deserve to be held in the same esteem as them. I don’t doubt there was a bit of little old Exmouth marching into the Lion’s den so to speak. By full, time I think we had showed that there’s precious little between the side’s and I hope we are able to take more out of this particular performance than the shared spoils. We can also take away with us the knowledge that we can live with anyone at this level.”
Is there a key position within the current set up?
“The number 10 position is a key berth in any side and in our current set-up it’s Andrew Powell who plays that slot and is doing so very well indeed. It’s his third season with us and he has developed season on season and is now coming into his own. He is currently the top point’s scorer in the Division and it’s testament to his season that he sits third or fourth in terms of kicking and sixth or seventh in the case of try scoring and together it means he’s some 40 points clear of the next best in the section!”
After such a fine result is there a danger of complacency?
“I am determined that we shouldn’t get carried away either with the result at London Irish or indeed with this current terrific run. There’s always a hurdle round every corner just waiting for you and I want us to stay very focussed on the task at hand. It’s a well oiled adage across the sporting spectrum, but we really do have to stick to the one game at a time rule of thumb. For me the key is that we are yet to reach half-way which underlines just how much rugby is still to be played. That particular milestone arrives with the December 8 game against bottom of the table Maidenhead.”
Was there anyone in the opposition team who particularly caught your eye?
“London Irish had at number eight a real machine! His Irish accent was such that none of our lads could understand a word he was speaking! He’s an awesome player with A team experience up there, but we coped with him and that’s a huge feather in our cap.”
What were your feelings post match?
“It was a strange feeling I harboured on the long journey home. Of course I was delighted that we had taken something from the game, but I was also left thinking what if!”
What’s been a key element to this season and this performance?
“At the end of last season we asked the players to come back this term and collectively give us an extra 10 per cent on what had been produced last season. The other thing we expressed a desire to see this time round was a greater level of consistency, not just in individual performances, but also as a team. Given that we are one game shy of half way and have lost just once, and that in the second outing then season, suggests that on both counts its mission accomplished, so far! However, we must not rest on our laurels and teams are always judged once the final ball has been booted, and so we need to look to maintain these current high levels of performance.”
Was it difficult to pick a team for the London Irish game?
“In a word, no! We have a very capable 1st team squad of 25, all of whom are in the squad because they have something to offer us at some stage in the playing season. Let’s face it, the team who played the previous game when we won well at Weston-super-Mare did a really good job, However, we felt that for the London Irish challenge the odd tinkering was necessary to combat different situations and styles. That’s why we did indeed tinker with the line-up and the couple of changes we made were for a reason, and I think that proved to be sound judgement given the result we got at London Irish.”
How was the journey back?
“The journey back to Exmouth was certainly eventful and we did not actually get back until gone midnight owing to the weather problems. There were times when the coach had to travel the wrong way down carriageways just for us to avoid flood waters and vehicles caught up in the trouble. There were some incredible sights with cars immersed in water that we went past! It seemed to get progressively worse the nearer we got to getting home and we had to try two or three different routes into Exmouth before eventually finding one that worked! The area around the Cat and Fiddle In looked troubled; there were a number of cars under water in that area!”
With no game this coming Saturday, what will the team do this week?
“We will have one intensive session this week as there is no game for either 1st or 2nd XV Cockles’ sides this Saturday. It’s very much a rare day off for us all and, with no 2nd XV game on – I’d be there if there was, it’s going to be a case of something completely different for me I guess before we begin to set our sights on the December 8 game with Maidenhead.”
Maidenhead next, what do you expect?
“I would be hugely disappointed if, after the titanic effort to exact a result for the trip to London Irish we failed to bag a positive result against Maidenhead. Anything less than a victory would render the London Irish result meaningless.”