So with the 1s due to start the second half of their League fixtures on Saturday with the game at Farnham, perhaps its time to reflect over the season so far.
At this stage last season we were sitting mid table with a record W6 L4 D1 but of course we then proceeded to win 10 of the remaining games and with a draw against Cornish remained unbeaten for the second half of the League programme, a record which I am sure Risey and the team will be aiming to emulate going forward.
In fact sitting on the top of the League as we approach the Christmas break has not been quite as straightforward as it might appear with some pretty average performances early on – lots of points - yes, lots of wins - yes, lots of pacey tries - yes but not too much discipline, physicality and structure to be seen and as we moved into October the team was almost found out when they just scraped a win at Winchester and the following week they succumbed to a solid Exiles side.
In fact this proved to be the catalyst that the coaching staff needed and the following weeks saw significant improvements particularly in the physicality and aggressive defence of the team and performances improved hugely as a result of some tough training sessions, and these became even more apparent when we played Dover in the Cup some weeks later when, despite some changes from the regular squad, the team, in pretty awful conditions, showed great skill and determination to come out on top.
Following the Dover performance we have also seen a tremendous win against our closest rivals ORs followed by a comprehensive win over third placed Twickenham last Saturday.
If we take a look at the squad this season it is still very young and although there seems very little difference from last year they have clearly matured, however in addition there seems to be a big improvement in the SiD that exists within the squad – guys like Sean, Lurch, Louie, Ben Bowen, Woody and Shawa have all filled in when needed as well as having helped to propel the 2s to the top of the Surrey Championship with a P9, W9 record to date.
This competition also exists all across the 1s with TommyA, Jamie, HT, The Fijian Flyer and Oyoni all top class back three players with veteran TommyA still able to turn it on just as he did more than a decade ago and already responsible for a number of try saving tackles this season. In Josh and Oyoni we have both pace and physicality and it has been great to see Josh, who is an outstanding 7s player grow into the 15 a side game and with Jamie who is himself easing back into rugby after a bad injury what a group.
In the centre we have Lils and the Wright Bros – sounds like a band? and although Oli has picked up a few knocks the three provide the experience and go forward on which the side depends and with Ash as the defence coach little gets through the middle these days.
After a few combinations, responsibilty for 'the hinge' currently rests with TommyD at 9 and Smarty outside and here, I believe, we have seen much of the change during the season with TommyD taking much more control of things at the base of the scrum and the young Smarty, using the exerience he has around him, beginning to realise his true potential and this has had a tremendous effect on the rest of the team.
Now to the pack - the front row has certainly stepped up its game this season helped by the improving Hasty and young Nick, both of whom have huge potential and are clearly benefitting from the guidance of Risey snr and, on the park Desperate Dan, and with Dyl and Mua the club must have the 2 best hookers in the league.
The second row has of late acquired a familiar look with Voighty returning after flirting with a move to the back row and Hoff supported by Tom Keith who himself has made huge progress in recovering from an injury which threatened his rugby career. All three provide the dawg, aggression and physicality needed by every team to take them through the muddy fields we will encounter in the New Year.
And finally the back row where again the club has some outstanding talent with a combination of physicality in defence and exceptional ball carrying abilities they often provide the perfect link between backs and forwards and have averaged more than a try per game so far.
The Warrior at blindside, having recovered from a knee op after last season, has played in every game and is always the go to man when sheer physicality is needed in attack or defence, Mac who has also played all games is having an outstanding season at #8 and his newly found control towards officials (most of the time anyway) is having a big effect.
So the #7s both have a bit a a scratchy injury record this season requiring more tape and massaging pre match than the rest of the squad put together but as quality players they both provide great leadership particularly in tight situations.
Finally we should not forget the Ladies – Sophie and Libby whose 'office' is always overfull as the players try to avoid spending too much time out in the cold on training nights.
On a serious note their support is simply huge – and among all of this Libby even managed to complete her Masters – congratulations.
In my time the guy with the bucket of cold water and a sponge in the middle of winter was the one person you never wanted to see coming towards you – perhaps the Girls should try that some nights in an attempt to reduce the queues.
Updated 12:32 - 13 Dec 2017 by Roger Berry
So with most of the return league games against the leading sides due to be played at Watchetts it would appear to be more of the same please although that is very much easier said than done.