St Albans still confident about promotion despite loss to Hendon
PUBLISHED: 06:31 02 March 2020
Head coach Richard Hope still has unerring faith that his St Albans side will still win promotion despite a 36-0 reverse at champions-elect Hendon.
Victory for the undefeated north London side puts them nine points clear of Saints in Herts Middlesex One, and with a game in hand, seemingly guaranteeing them the title.
But there is still daylight between the Oaklands Lane-based rugby club and the chasing pack and Hope sees no reason for that to change.
"I still genuinely believe we are going up this season," he said with a calm firmness. "I will take the 18 boys in that changing room over any other team in this league and if we hadn't made mistakes in this game, it's a lot tighter and you don't know where it will go.
"But when the other team gets momentum, we have to learn how to wrestle that back."
The promotion challenge from the first team reflects a positive vibe running throughout the club.
And in a time when rugby clubs across the country are struggling with player retention, Saints are regularly attracting numbers in excess of 30 to training and running three teams on a regular basis.
Hope said: "There are a lot of clubs around us in the St Albans and Hatfield area who are starting to lose numbers and teams but we are going in the opposite direction.
"We're even talking about whether we can get a fourth team out at some point.
"We're still growing. There are changes that need to be made in terms of bringing other people in.
"With the numbers at training it gets hard to coach that many players but apart from that we are in a really good place."
And that's why the shut-out and heavy defeat against Hendon, while not being the end of the world, was a fly in the ointment.
The coach said: "It was a bit of a free hit for us against the league leaders and we're not going to get down about it.
"We know we can beat every side in this league and I genuinely believe we could have beaten Hendon but we're not going to if we don't take any shots.
"They are a side that don't make too many mistakes and they didn't here and we did.
"Charles Woollard who started at tight-head came off after about 20 minutes and that lost us some momentum.
"He's a big player for us, not just with his ability but with his character as well. He's a leader.
"When that went away we lost a bit of our direction up front."