SEB Reynolds had mixed emotions after Rams ground out a hard-fought 31-20 home victory to record a fourth consecutive National One bonus-point success against Rosslyn Park.
Zach Clow’s early score, brilliantly converted from the left-hand touchline by Fraser Honey, was replied to by a Charlie Walker effort, James McRae pushing Rams 12-5 up with the first of three tries from the maul.
A Tom Wilstead penalty reduced the Park arrears before Matt Williams crossed to put his side one point in front, but the hosts hit back after Max Hayman went over from another set-piece.
Having butchered a three-on-one chance to go further in front before the break, Rams had to repel some three minutes of early pressure in the second half before landing a crucial blow.
A turnover on their own line led to McRae booting the ball towards halfway, and when it stayed in-field, Clow jumped highest to claim it before racing in from 55 metres.
Honey’s kick made it 26-13, Hayman’s second extended the lead and while Sunni Jardine kept the Londoners in the game with a converted score, the hosts ruthlessly closed the game out in the final quarter.
“I’d describe it as efficiently inefficient, we struggled at times to get a real foothold in the game, it became quite stop-start and had a lack of rhythm, but that’s because of how good Rosslyn Park were,” said director of rugby Reynolds.
“They came and really challenged us at the breakdown, their number seven (Arthur Ellis) got some good turnovers and was causing us problems, so we had to tidy that up going into the second half.
“But in fairness to our lads we did that very well, and we killed the game off very well in the last 10 to 15 minutes.”
He continued: “The most impressive thing was when they got the try to make it an 11-point game, one more score and they’re back in, we finished it well by putting pressure on their breakdown, we had good field position and ran the clock down well.
“Our set-piece was very good, the scrum was excellent along with the line-out.
“We put some pressure on them there and got some reward, it was a bit of a connoisseurs’ win and some people in the crowd might wonder where the running rugby was, it was there at times, but we had to go a different route to get the win.
“It wasn’t the prettiest rugby, but we showed we can do that . We’ve won in different ways this year so credit to our lads for that.”
Park arrived at Old Bath Road having lost their previous five games against Rams, but the DoR admitted it had been a stern challenge.
He added: “The game was in the balance two or three times where a score for them would put them in the ascendancy, but thankfully the scores came for us.
“It feels like they’ve changed the dynamic of their side and they looked the most motivated and together as a group, you could see it in the turnovers, the moments of celebration and the way they capitalised on our errors.
“The score says it was one of our most comfortable wins against them, but it was probably the toughest, you can see they’re working towards something, and they’ll be a big threat through the season.”
There were a number of stand-out home performers, but for the second week in a row man-of-the-match Connor Stapley caught the eye.
Reynolds continued: “He’s taking on the role of calling the line-out from Ollie Taylor and that’s no mean feat ,you have to remember when OT first did it he struggled a little bit because you’re playing a brutal game of rugby, knocking each other around and suddenly someone asks you ‘what’s our call?’
“You’ve got to give them a couple of options, there’s lots to think about and he’s doing a superb job of it, the line-out was even better than it has been so far and Connor’s improving as a player in his 30s which is a credit to the effort he puts in.”
Fly-half Fraser Honey also exuded calm with his siege-gun boot setting-up the chance to attack with the maul, and the head coach added: “He’s doing well but there’s loads more to come from him – he’s still building connections with the group.
“He loves rugby, it’s infectious, he cares so much about it and wants to improve which is what we’re all about as a group. He’s been a breath of fresh air since coming in.”
And saving his final word for centurion Drew Humberstone, who produced a typically solid display, Seb ended: “He’s first class and a huge congratulations to him on his 100th game – it’s a brilliant achievement in such a short space of time. I wish him all the best for the next 100.”
Rams travel to Taunton Titans on Saturday (3pm).