BURTON RFC coach Steve Smith has hit back at disparaging comments made by local rivals Lichfield in the wake of last weekend’s derby defeat.
The third-placed Cooke Fields side eased to a 29-16 victory last Saturday, and were none-too complimentary about the Crofters in their match report.
Those comments seem unfair given that numerous team changes and inadequate training facilities and preparation did little to help Burton’s cause last week as they suffered their third and heaviest defeat of the year, to a full-strength Lichfield side.
In addition, the accusation that Burton are “one dimensional” does little justice to the effort and time put in by the coaches and players to turn a young squad into a team that plays expansive rugby going forward at every opportunity.
That has resulted in every player in the squad scoring at least one try, whereas at Lichfield the two Massey brothers have scored nearly half their side’s points tally.
And ahead of Saturday’s trip to Berkwell & Balsall, kick-off 2.15pm, Smith said: “The Lichfield website has claimed that we are one dimensional following our previous encounters this season.
“That is an unfair thing to say about one of the most potent back lines in the league, with also one of the best defensive records.
“Lichfield have only really beaten a full-strength Burton side once this season, which was by an intercept in the last few minutes of our first encounter of the season.
“Last week’s game saw three players unavailable in the backs and a further three positional changes to the backs made to ensure we got a back line out.
“Unfortunately, these changes allowed (Lichfield centre) Greg Massey in particular the space to exploit and score a couple of times.”
Burton have a good chance to bounce straight back at Honiley Road on Saturday, as they make their first-ever trip to Meer End to face a club six places below them in Midlands 2 (West).
This re-arranged fixture is the final match in the Crofters’ backlog and Smith is confident his side have the ability to cement fourth place with a victory.
He said: “The squad need to pick themselves up from the two defeats over the past weeks to Stoke and Lichfield to get back to winning ways.
“Certainly the forwards should be more than a match for any side in the league, and the backs need to be direct and create space for Benjamin, (Lewis) Brooks and the returning (John) Philliskirk to exploit.”
Currently lying fifth from the bottom of the league table, Berkswell have won seven of their 19 games including their last two against Whitchurch (20-7) and Northwich (25-19).
These recent results seem to indicate that they have improved quite a bit since their heavy 59-15 defeat at Peel Croft back in October.
In addition, the 15 points Berkswell scored in that game demonstrate that the Crofters must not take their foot of the gas.
James Burrough is likely to be handed a starting role after impressing last weekend off the bench, which will include Jono Edwards, Jason Knight and Ed Henry.
Smith said: “The bench again does not feature a true backs replacement, but does give a blend of youth and experience that can cover most eventualities.”
Ben Peach is unable to travel and so scrum-half Danny Campbell will come in for the unavailable Darryl Banton, while Danny Smith’s unavailability gives another chance on the wing to Tom Cooper.
The selection committee have decided to go with the younger players for this weekend’s trip, with stalwart Edwards being the unfortunate player to miss out on selection from last week’s squad.
Though the first team will be away, Peel Croft will supply home supporters with plenty to whet their appetites prior to the England v France Six Nations fixture, as they can come down to the Lichfield Street venue at the usual time and watch Burton’s young talent on display when the Colts entertain Lichfield in a County Cup quarter-final tie, kick-off 2.15pm.
The other game at the club this weekend sees Burton’s A and B teams combining to play Matlock, following Stafford cancelling the original B team fixture.