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Old Patesians head coach Chris Downes remains in upbeat mood

All Areas > Sport > Rugby Union

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Friday, 7th January 2022, 09:00

Chris Downes Chris Downes

It’s often said that a league table doesn’t lie, and while that’s a difficult one to argue against, it’s also fair to say that it doesn’t always tell the whole story.

Take Old Patesians Rugby Club for example. The cold facts show that they have drawn one and lost 10 of their South West One West games this season.

Not great by anyone’s reckoning – although it should be noted it is better than Bath’s record in the Premiership this season!

But dig a little deeper and there are reasons to believe that 2022 could bring a little more cheer for the Everest Road club’s flagship team.

That’s certainly the hope of head coach Chris Downes, who feels his players have performed better in the first half of the season than the results suggest.

“We just need the rub of the green to start going our way,” he told The Local Answer. “We’ve lost a handful of games by just a few points, even the last play of the game.

“Spin those around and we’d be getting up to halfway in the table.”

Those narrow defeats – 24-21 at Wellington, 18-13 at home to Sidmouth, 19-16 at home to Bridgwater and 25-24 at home to Crediton – have been tough to take, of course, but Downes is remaining optimistic.

“We are a very new team and it takes time to build,” he said. “Players need to get to know each other and learn how to play with each other.

“The average age of our side is only 24 or 25, so it’s not going to happen straight away.

“We just need to win one game, we need to get that monkey off our back. Winning becomes a habit and if we can win one game I’m sure we’ll win others because winning breeds confidence.”

Unsurprisingly, given their record – the draw was at Thornbury at the end of October – the Pats are propping up their 13-strong division, but despite their lack of wins, a return of eight bonus points has kept them in touch with the teams immediately above them.

And their next three games see them playing teams who are still looking over their shoulders at the sides below them, starting with the visit of ninth-placed North Petherton to Everest Road on Saturday.

That is followed seven days later by the return game with 10th-placed Wellington and a trip to Sidmouth, who are 11th, on 22nd January.

Downes is obviously aware of the importance of the upcoming fixtures but insisted: “As a coach, do we target games? No, probably not. We take every game as one we think we can win.”

The Pats still have 13 games to play this season – that’s a lot of rugby – and eight of those remaining matches are at home so there’s plenty up for grabs, especially with the planned restructuring of the leagues set to take place at the end of the campaign.

“The Old Pats are the premier team in Cheltenham and we want to keep it that way,” said Downes. “We want to play at as high a level as we can.”

But despite that desire, Downes, who has been in and around the Old Pats for a good many years, insists there is much more to the club than just the first team.

“We are a community club,” he said. “Yes, people look at the first team but our 2nd XV are doing well in their league, the Colts have got through to the latter stages of a national competition and we’ve got a 3rd XV out four times this season.

“We’re still getting good numbers to training so if you take all that into account, it paints a very, very different picture.”

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