Rugby St Andrews
This Saturday Rugby St Andrews travel to Alcester for their preliminary round tie in the Warwickshire Shield competition.
A lethargic performance in last season’s league game saw them slump to a 32-19 defeat, which ended their ten-match winning streak and briefly threatened to derail their push for promotion.
Alcester are always tough opposition on their home turf and Saints will be missing a raft of players, which will make their challenge even more difficult.
Pre-season training and practice matches have gone well. The first game against Old Saltleians, who filled in at short notice when Long Buckby cried off, proved to be a stern test against a big, forward orientated squad.
The final tally of four tries to two in Saints’ favour was a fair reflection of the game.
Northampton Casuals were a different proposition altogether.
Spinning the ball wide at every opportunity they gave the defence a thorough examination but superb tackling across the park restricted them to just two tries in the first two quarters.
Fielding their stronger teams for the remaining quarters Saints dominated territorially but poor handling and the concession of penalties let the home side off the hook on too many occasions.
They reduced the deficit to a couple of points but were hit by two late breakaway tries that gave Casuals a flattering lead. Saints’ pack was competitive in both games and, with some useful new recruits, should be able to hold their own at the higher level, but, with both of last season’s leading try scorers unavailable the best back line is far from settled. There was plenty of individual talent on display, both from established players and emerging youngsters, but the most effective combination is yet to be established.