Cornish All Blacks determined to maintain top form as derby date looms
The Cornish All Blacks have a lot more at stake than National League Two South points in their away game at struggling Southend this weekend.
The Launceston men have lost just once in nine league games and most expect them to extend that run in Essex tomorrow, especially after inflicting a rare loss on Henley Hawks last weekend.
However, head coach Spike Rainford said he will ensure his side leave Cornwall with a quiet confidence and nothing more – a jarring defeat would not be the best preparation for a derby with Redruth at Polson Bridge on February 9.
"We have proved we can do it against the best sides in the league, so there is no excuse now," said Rainford. "We have to reproduce that every week and as the season goes on, the players are aware that the pressure builds to keep it going.
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"We didn't want to be the first team that went down to Barking earlier in the season and luckily for us, we were not. Since then, Barking have gone on to beat Henley, it just shows it can be done and you have to be on your guard with every team.
"It can be very easy to become overconfident but we are very grounded. We know that if we want to do well we have to put a good performance in week after week. The opposition is unimportant."
Last weekend's 19-15 success over the Hawks at Polson was certainly one to lift morale and make the All Blacks feel as though anything is still possible this term.
"It was one of the better days that you can have when you're involved in rugby," said Rainford. "It was very good and pleasing for us.
"We came in at half-time 15-3 down having defended for most of the first half.
"We had a couple of players in the sin bin during the first half as well, so we were down to 13 men for ten minutes or more. We only conceded one score in that time, so it shows how good our defence had been.
"We came out in the second half and decided to play some rugby. Every time we went into their 22, we came away with points. Kieran Lewitt did a great job keeping the scoreboard ticking over, and in the last five minutes we just kept hold of the ball and ran the clock down."
The All Blacks also beat Southend at Polson Bridge, earlier in the season but Rainford refuses to read too much into that result and performance ahead of their long journey this weekend.
"We were a different team at the start of the season to what we are now," he said. "If we play our best game, we will be difficult for anyone to beat. That is what we have to concentrate on, if we play our best game, it is up to them to prove they have got something better.
"It feels like we have played away for the majority of the season. It is only our second overnighter of the season but it does feel like we have been away an awful lot – but we've had some good results on the road so this weekend's long journey is no worry."
Rainford will be forced into at least one change this weekend as back-row forward Mike Rawlings is set to miss out with a shoulder injury. Barry Chapman or Lloyd Duke will deputise in his absence.