Maidenhead follow up the sumptuous 50 point victory over Grove last week, with a trip to high-flying Salisbury. The Wiltshire-based side held Maids to a 11-11 draw in the return fixture, late September at Braywick, and the newly-promoted side have quickly settled in to life in SW1, embarking on an impressive run, which sees them in second place, with only 2 losses since the draw at Maids.
Led by Liam Gilbert at 8, Salisbury are a well-drilled unit, with a very strong defence. They have good lineout operators, and in likely poor conditions this Saturday, no doubt the set piece will be a key area for Maidenhead to target. Salisbury enter the match, off the back of a disappointing 29-14 loss, 7 days earlier against Towcestrians, who now occupy an 8 point lead at the top.
Maidenhead will be buoyed by the return of the outstanding Ryan Long, who has opted to rejoin the club, after spells with Henley and Chinnor in Nat 1 and Nat 2 respectively. This week, we caught up with the new signing, who expressed his excitement at ‘coming home’.
-it’s great to have you back at Maids- what has made you return to Braywick?
I had got to a stage in my career where I had stopped enjoying rugby. At this point I decided to take a month out of rugby to decide what I wanted to do, during which time I attended a couple of sessions at Maidenhead. Having thoroughly enjoyed the sessions I attended, it became very clear to me that a move back to Braywick would reignite the love I had recently lost for the game. I think it’s important to add that what makes Maidenhead such a great place to play is not just the rugby sessions, it’s the atmosphere in the bar afterwards, the lively crowd at matches and also the amount of effort senior players put in to make new players feel welcome. I came to watch the final game of 2015 which saw Maidenhead end the year with a good victory against Trowbridge but what was even more impressive was the post-match events whereby all the current players were gathered in the Bonberry bar mingling with ex-players and old boys. That kind of atmosphere is something I believe is rarely seen at rugby clubs these days. It really is great to be back.
-where do you see the club going in the next few years?
In terms of the first team I think a permanent move into the national leagues is not far away. Although promotion may be out of reach for this season I think a top 4 finish is definitely an achievable target for us. From there we will be looking to continue to build the squad in preparation for a real promotion push next year. I believe if the squad keeps progressing as it is now and if we can stay together for the next few years then should we achieve our target of promotion, we will also have a squad good enough to compete in National 3.
Outside of this aim, as a senior squad we are also looking to grow by eventually being able to put out a 4th XV which will be a fantastic achievement for the club and will just demonstrate the growth of the club as a whole.
-what do you want to see from the players v Salisbury?
Physicality. If we want to leave Salisbury this weekend with a ‘W’ we will have to be physical in all aspects of the game. Traditionally Salisbury have a good back row and so I think the breakdown will also be a key area to try and get an edge. We have been doing a lot of breakdown work in training recently and so if we apply this on Saturday it can only benefit us.
Ryan Long goes straight into the match day squad, replacing Matt Burke, while Jaryd Robinson and Tom Stileman are away with work and university respectively. Frankie O’Keeffe returns to the team, after dogsitting over Xmas, while Seth Munn takes the bench spot. Paul Britton continues at tighthead, to face his former side.
Maids team to face Salisbury:
1/ Parrott (c), 2/ Jones, 3/ Britton, 4/ Emmanuel, 5/Greenergrass, 6/White, 7/ Cadden, 8/Muil, 9/Childerhouse, 10/ Jansen, 11/ O’Keeffe, 12/ Heron, 13/ Bart, 14/ Abiven, 15/ Finnie, 16/ Rawlings, 17/ Long, 18/ Munn