“We’ll have to be at our best” Scott

Date published: Friday, May 30, 2014
SCOTT Naylor is adamant that Kingstone Press Championship One has improved beyond all recognition since Hemel Stags, Oxford and Gloucester All Golds entered the competition for the first time last season.
Each of those clubs is stronger and more resilient this time round in a division that has also become more competitive thanks to the inclusion of Hunslet Hawks and York City Knights, both relegated from the Championship.
The Oldham boss believes Gloucester, who finished bottom in 2013, will be in the top -five play-off under the stewardship of new coach Steve McCormack.
The popular view is that, in no particular order, Oldham, York and Hunslet will qualify, to be joined by any two from five — Hemel, Oxford, Gloucester, Gateshead and London Skolars.
Gateshead have high hopes since they were taken over last week by Newcastle Rugby Ltd, the company owned by Newcastle Falcons chairman Semore Kurdi.
With only one team going up, via the play-offs, eight of the nine clubs in the division harbour what they perceive to be realistic ambitions of winning promotion — and that includes the Skolars from North London, who come to Whitebank on Sunday (3pm kick off) occupying eighth spot in a division of nine.
Hit by injuries, they haven’t won since mid-April and they’ve been beaten in their last three games by York, Gateshead and Gloucester.
But they are back to full strength now and Naylor hasn’t forgotten that, on his own admission, Roughyeds were fortunate to return from North London in March with three league points from an 18-16 win.
Variously describing Sunday’s return game on home soil as “one to worry about” and “a potential banana skin”, the Oldham boss says Skolars will be much stronger than in recent games and will take heart from how well they coped with Roughyeds at their place.
Two-try Mike Worrincy formed a strong-running and vastly-experienced back-row with Lamont Bryan and Olly Purslow, while big props David Williams and Ryan Macdonald caused no end of trouble up front.
Coach Joe Mbu is encouraged to have the rare luxury of a full-strength squad and has set his sights on appearing in the play-offs.
“It’s a challenge going up to Oldham, and one we’re all too familiar with,” he said. “Over the years we’ve come close a few times at Whitebank.
“We need to make sure we turn up, understand the pitch and the facilities, and get the job done.”
Naylor understands his rival’s optimism, and says of Mbu: “He’s a good coach with good players, some old heads, and some former London Broncos stars, who gave us a lot of trouble last time.
“Our league positions will count for zilch. The division is more competitive than it’s ever been, as results are proving week by week.
“Any side in the division can beat any other on its day. No team can afford to have an off-day or they will get punished no matter who they are playing.
“It’s great credit to my lads that they’ve been beaten only once — no other club can claim that —- and that we are still unbeaten at Whitebank. Again, both York and Hunslet have suffered home defeats.
“All that will count for nothing, though, if we don’t turn up on Sunday fully focused on what we need to do.”