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Head of Rugby - Christmas Update

UBRFC Winter Performance Report Maroon 1st XV Rugby – 2022/23 season

With new team branding as UBRFC 1st XV Maroons, a new playing squad and new leadership, the 22/23 season started with a culture reboot in early May ahead of kicking off our preseason in the sweltering heat of August. With a cut down training group captain Sam Hill-Cousins and the coaching team welcomed some 12 maroon scholars, 4 VC scholars, and some 40 plus aspirational performance players to 6 weeks of intense triple day training, with plenty of education, conditioning and social networking thrown in to build a new performance squad.

The Southern Premiership rugby program becomes tougher ever year thanks to BSR creating a beast at the top where every school boy wants to play for a BSR teams, therefore their 2nd and 3rd teams are full of physical monsters and technically very capable young players. With this in mind the senior players and coaching team created a vision as to how we want to negate the opposition strengths whilst making sure we focused on our own unique assets and enjoyment. The vision created for the season is to ‘Entertain,’ with the goal of driving our behaviours, training, tactics, every element towards making sure we as a playing and coaching group are entertained in every training session and match, whilst entertaining all those who kindly support us. Quite simply play a brand of rugby the players enjoy and engage in, whilst recognising what is required of them to play such a brand and win.

With paintball, archery, orienteering, our traditional sand dune run and plenty of on field graft under their belts the students were looking fit, fresh and hungry to play their September preseason fixtures with Bath, Nottingham and the Navy. The players showed we had prepared to a good level, as we looked organised and on course to have an entertaining start to the BUCS season winning 2 out of the 3 games.

Round one of the BUCS program brought a tricky tie away to Cardiff Met2s which was won thanks to some solid defence and smart kicking. An element of the game that is becoming more and more prominent which UBRFC teams more often neglect and need to be far better at. This was certainly true for the next two games against Hartpury at home and Cardiff away. Both opponents second teams were stacked with size, power and smart half backs, meaning the Maroons had to out run and out think them. Sadly we fell short after a solid first half display against Hartpury. However we learned our lessons and won well away in Cardiff on their new multimillion pound playing grounds. Dominant scrummaging and set piece providing a solid platform to out manoeuvre the Welsh team and take home the points.

League and competition favorites to be promoted to BSR, Brunel University, better recognised as Ealing Trailfinders academy were next to visit dingle. Having started their preseason in June, similar to a professional team, they had not failed to score 50 points in every one of their previous fixtures, including beating two super rugby teams in preseason, so we knew we were in for a fight. We employed some new tactics, made sure we fired some shots early and placed huge emphasis on the mental challenge of the game, sadly coming out second best losing 10-35, though we were the first team to score, first team to keep them under 50 and first team to challenge them tactically. We were hugely proud of the players effort as this game now set a performance bench mark for the rest of the season.

A massive effort to win in hurricane conditions the next week at Exeter was a huge testament to the way the Maroon group had trained and tactically adapted from their natural predisposition to run the ball. Coming away with another bonus point from a challenging away trip was also a testament to the strength of character and leadership coming through in this young group. Unfortunately the next two losses against Bath2s and Exeter2s were born from a lot of injured senior players and a naive team, in the depths of learning what is required of them regarding good decisions under pressure and both how and where to play the game against well organised opponents.

CardiffMet2s visited next with a new look monster forward pack pinched from their Saturday side. We fronted up well and had learned our lessons from the previous two games, with some superb tries scored from an ever improving back line of dynamic and skilful players, Maroon scholars Jake Williams and Fin Campbell standing out. Continuing the rollercoaster season though a disappointing loss away at Hartpury followed. Where yet again a lack of focus, discipline, some individual errors and a tough time at the set piece found us undone. However, a tired squad stood tall in freezing conditions, stepping up to win convincingly against Cardiff2s at home in the final game of the term with James Barry and prop Ted Gibson leading from the front. Some outstanding team and individual tries were scored, with a lot of fierce defence and no shortage of flare in attack on show at times.

The key development over the last sixteen weeks has been the growth of the Maroon players grit and togetherness which we are hugely proud of. It’s been evidenced in every game in one form or another, so our goal for term 2 is to go unbeaten and replicate the mental toughness shown as we look to elevate our focus and tactical awareness in games to eek out more wins, as the overriding opinion from the playing group from term one has been that they let themselves down on too many occasions and are far more capable than they have shown.

It's been a huge effort from all involved over the past 16 weeks, we sit with 5 wins and 5 loses, 4th in the BUCS table.

I would like to thank captain Sam, my fellow coaches Shane and James, club physio Sean, analyst Chris, our new look S&C team, the club committee, my right hand man Olly Slym and the SEH staff for their continued help and support in providing UBRFC Maroon 1st XV the opportunity to enjoy their learning and representing this unique club.

Onwards and upwards in 2023! – Joe Goodman, UBRFC Head Coach.

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