The season may have just drawn to a close but Andy Kelly is already looking ahead to the new campaign and a cure for away-day blues.
Sheffield finished a very respectable sixth in their first season in North 1 East and while skipper Kelly was more than happy with the outcome, it was tinged with those oft used words ... ‘if only.’
The Abbeydale side lost just one of their 12 home games but on their travels, the winning return dropped to five. It’s something Kelly and Co. will be working on come September and beyond.
“If someone had said to me at the beginning of the season that we’d finish in the top six I would certainly have taken that,” he said. “I’m happy with the way its gone; we established ourselves in the top half of the league although I feel it could have been even better.
“We beat everyone at home apart from the eventual champions Billingham but our away form was indifferent. I think it’s a bit of a mindset and it’s something we need to look at.
“On our day we can beat anyone in this league and we’re hoping for a top three place next season,” he added.
While the team ethic was there for all to see, Andy was quick to praise the work of Head Coach Nick Crapper and Director of Rugby Martin Poste. “They’ve continued to create a great atmosphere with excellent training sessions and the players have responded to it.”
Every player has played their part for Sheffield with Joe Cribley the leading try scorer with 11 and Donal Collins the top points scorer but the standout duo for Kelly were Carl Mortimer and Ewan Reed.
Hooker Mortimer, who is also the club’s forwards coach, continues to bring his vast experience into play while full back Reed has displayed excellent defensive qualities and produced a number of try-saving tackles.
Meanwhile the final match against bottom of the table Team Northumbria proved to be a history-making occasion for the man with the golden boot, Donal Collins.
he scored two of the eight tries in the 52-24 victory but his 69 minute drop goal was the significant factor as it made him the highest drop goal scorer in the club’s history.
Flanker James Ferguson got Sheffield off to a flier when he went over after just two minutes. Collins converted and he then added the extras to Simon Tillyer’s try six minutes later.
The visitors reduced the gap with an interception try but Mortimer bagged a converted try in the 20 minute and Collins then landed a penalty and converted his own try within the next eight minutes.
Northumbria grabbed a try either side of the break to reduce the gap to 29-17 but Collins touched down in the 46 minute and James Montgomery joined the party after 63 minutes. Two minutes later Northumbria scored their fourth try but it was a token gesture as Collins produced his historic drop goal and Montgomery crashed over for his second try three minutes from time. Replacement flanker Dale Goulding completed the rout in injury time.
Red alert: Sheffield’s players embark on their mystery tour this weekend ... you have been warned, as has Martin Balshaw!
Rugby legend Jason Leonard is the special guest at the club’s annual dinner and prize presentation at Baldwin’s Omega a week on Saturday.