Fitness work left Market Drayton in good shape

Market Drayton Rugby Club coach George Armstrong believes his side’s improved showing is all down to fitness work done pre-season, writes Dave Cooper.

Market Drayton in good shape
Market Drayton in good shape

With coronavirus cutting the season short, the Ravens signed off Midlands Four West (North) in fourth. And it was a marked improvement on the previous season.

New coach Armstrong joined in the summer and said: “With only four victories the previous year we were looking forward to better times – and in pre-season fitness was a key theme.

“We went into our first game with confidence at newly-relegated Cannock, but it was the home side who took an early lead.

“However, the Ravens are made of sterner stuff this year and despite being 19-10 down at the interval got off to a winning start 24-19.”

The Ravens were to make a habit of slow starts throughout the season, finding themselves down at half-time in eight games before coming back to win. Armstrong added: “The confidence garnered from the first win of the season helped the club to an unprecedented five wins on the bounce and they topped the league for the first time.

“Unfortunately, having beaten the two favourites for the league, Clee Hill and Rugeley, we were to fall at local rivals Trentham. Another win was followed by another defeat on the road at promotion rivals Aldridge.”

The win one, lose one habit happened again with a loss at at Barton Under Needwood following victory over Birmingham Exiles before a defeat at top-of-the-table Clee Hill. Victory over Essington was followed by a first and only home defeat courtesy of Yardley & District.

“With our league hopes looking dashed, the emphasis for the club changed,” said Armstrong.

“Me and the senior players agreed that the Ravens were about enjoying the game, so the club played the final four games under no pressure to perform and ran out victorious in all four matches.

“It was a shame for the season to finish the way it did, but we can look forward with optimism for the next campaign. We played 18, won 13 and lost five – not a bad return for the efforts of the players.”

The club’s top try-scorer was Chad Fieldhouse with 10, while top points-scorer was kicker Alex Gammon, who clocked up 176.

And Armstrong believes the RFU made the right call in postponing the season when it did.

“They had no choice really, but the interesting thing is how they go about the leagues for next season,” the coach added.

“Is there relegation and promotion or does it stay as it was at the start of this season?

“They are supposed to be restructuring anyway. We have to wait and I suppose, but there may be appeals, etc.”

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