DONALD Hayes says his Uttoxeter RFC side needs to pick up more bonus points to ensure a top-half finish in Midlands Three West (North) next season.
The Town were narrowly beaten 31-24 by Eccleshall on Saturday.
Uttoxeter picked up two bonus points, one for scoring four tries and one for finishing within a converted try of the victors.
And Hayes wants more of the same to improve Town’s league placing next season.
“One massive positive is that we were able to take two losing bonus points from the match,” he said. “What has separated us from the teams immediately above us in the league is the bonus points they have picked up.
“Next season we must pick up more bonus points if we want to break into the top half of the table.”
The performance away from Oldfields disappointed Hayes, but he saw some positives in it.
“We put in a mediocre performance and that simply isn’t enough at this level,” said the director of rugby. “There were periods of play where we delivered some outstanding rugby and we finished off our chances well.
“However, in the periods where we dropped off Eccleshall pounced and punished us.
“If we had performed consistently for 80 minutes then we would’ve grabbed the game by the scruff and left as victors.”
Uttoxeter took the lead following some end-to-end play.
Eccleshall were attempting to break from deep and passed the ball swiftly between the hands of their backs but one misjudged pass went straight into the grateful arms of centre Henry Knox.
He turned, rounded a defender and shot up the left wing, diving over the line in the far left corner for a 5-0 lead.
Eccleshall then took the lead with two tries in 10 minutes as they punished Town with some breaks from deep. One was converted for a score of 12-5.
Lewis Bain, recently selected for the Midlands Under-20 squad, then scored Uttoxeter’s second try.
The forwards had taken play up the right with Dave Chell and Rich Ufton crashing through the gain line.
The ball was spun out left through hands to Jake Cabrera and the hooker stepped back inside and slotted through a gap in the midfield.
Cabrera shot into Eccleshall’s 22 before popping off to winger James Gill. He was brought down by a covering tackle but was able to offload to Bain, who sprinted the final 10 metres and touched down under the posts. Alex Crisp converted to level the scores at 12-12.
Eccleshall scored once more in the first half. They were camped in Uttoxeter’s 22 and hit the gain line time and time again. They then hacked on a loose ball and it bobbled over the line, where they were able to touch down for an unconverted score.
Town scored the final try of the half to again level the scores.
The pack created fast ball, with Jim Holmes and Jack Conlon taking the ball on. Crisp kept the play tight and again the forwards crashed the ball tight, this time Steve Woolley and Steve Edwards taking it on.
With men sucked in to defend the breakdown, Uttoxeter spun the ball out to the space. Cabrera was released in the gap and stormed up the left wing to score a textbook try to level the scores at 17-17.
Eccleshall scored early in the second half. From a line-out the hosts took a few phases in tight before shipping the ball out.
Their fly-half spotted space on the blind side and he sliced through Town’s line and cut infield, sprinting the final 25 metres to touch down for a converted try.
Ben Gallimore put in a crunching tackle on the restart to floor an Eccleshall player and keep the hosts in their own half.
Within 10 minutes Eccleshall put space between themselves and Uttoxeter. Some quick hands and good support saw Eccleshall break up Town’s right to touch down for a converted try and extend the lead to 31-17.
Play then deteriorated, with several stoppages preventing either side from building up much continuity.
In the final 10 Uttoxeter raised their game and broke into the home half with some quick phases.
Bain scored the visitors’ second try after finding a gap in the midfield and eluding several tacklers to touch down.
Crisp drop converted to narrow the gap to 31-24 and earn an extra bonus point.
Town won a late scrum but soon lost the ball and Eccleshall were able to clear and seal the win.