Sheffield RUFC are breathing a sigh of relief this week after narrowly beating Bradford and Bingley 12-10 at home last Saturday but the captain has stressed the need for players to keep calm and take time in their decisions on the pitch ahead of their weekend derby against Wheatley Hills.
Jimmy Pearson, 36, and his side kept pole position in North One East after tries by flanker David Bradford and winger Ali Womack but pressure is mounting after second-placed Ilkley picked up a bonus point for scoring five tries in a 31-7 win at Alnwick, narrowing the gap to just two points at the top of the table.
Also the skipper is all too aware that in the reverse fixture played last October the blue and whites were pipped 24-22 by their South Yorkshire neighbours. But Sheffield have only lost one game since, whilst Wheatley have lost five including their last fixture against Rochdale.
“We were all very relieved after beating Bradford and one of the biggest problems was that we didn’t take our chances – we needed to make sure we got over their try line,” said Jimmy.
“But we can’t panic because of the result and we did deserve the victory. Now the players just have to be focused and take one game at a time. We must all have clam heads and remember the title is still in our hands. If we win every game, it is ours.
“It is going to be very hard against Wheatley and we know they will be hard to break down because they have very strong forwards but I really think our quality in the backs will show and we need to play to that strength.”
Tommy Marples, the vice captain added: “It is going to be a revenge game with the added derby type feel to the game and they will have some players on the pitch who used to be at our club.”
“We will be going all out for the win and are a much better side now despite the narrow win over Bradford. I’d like to think we can get a really good victory and keep our amazing home record intact.”
On form Sheffield RUFC are certainly favourites for the game as they lead North One East on 72 points after 18 games, whilst Wheatley Hills are 19 points behind falling from second to sixth after a run of only two wins in their last six matches.
However Jimmy, playing in his third year back at the club after a brief spell with Sheffield Tigers, has stressed that their South Yorkshire rivals pose a real threat as they proved in their nail-biting 23-22 victory over previous second club Percy Park who have now dropped to fourth.
“It will be a tricky test because even though Wheatley are on a bad run that’s all the more reason why they will come to us hungry for a win. It’s a grudge match for both teams involved,” said the experienced fly-half.
“We have to be prepared for a very difficult test. And we don’t have that nice cushion at the top of the table any more so if we throw away points now that will give the opportunity for teams to challenge for the title.”
Adam Byron, 33, the head coach added: “I want everyone up for the game against our local rivals and see us controlling the action in the Wheatley half from kick-off.”
“It’s also crucial that we try and not concede because if the game is very tight we can build on a strong defence and hope our quality in finishing gets us the result.”
The Director of rugby at Birkdale school, who has been part of the club since he was 12 years old, believes the side have been affected by a disrupted fixture list in 2015 but still has eyes firmly set on winning the title in style this season.
“The Christmas break came at the wrong time for us this year because we had such momentum going into it, and bad weather has stopped us in our tracks a bit,” said Byron.
“We just need to get going again and get in a good run of games. I want to see players running off the rustiness and putting in everything to the performance.
“I am not taking any notice of other results and just want everyone to focus on winning every game, because it is our title to lose.”
Tommy added: “Promotion is in our sights and we can’t afford to take our eyes off the ball. We will only have ourselves to blame if our hands aren’t on the trophy at the end of the season.”