The Chiefs' experience means they don't panic after a loss
YOU can't take a pill for experience. That was perhaps the most infuriating thing my father said to me when I was a developing young buck 20-odd years ago!
I endured his 'perceived' wisdom but so often proceeded to go off and make my mistakes anyway. With the benefit of hindsight, I concede that Dad had a valid point. Indeed experience is what I'd like to discuss in today's missive...
Last week was very special in the Bentley family as my elder brother and his wife Lucy welcomed their first-born, Bridget, into the world. As a father with two years under my belt, I am a veritable veteran at the parenting role. It's been great having one over on Jim. I've been playfully winding up 'our kid' about the trials and tribulations of parenthood. From the challenge of the first few nappies to awesome sleep deprivation and the total collapse of free time, his ears have been ringing from my japery!
Needless to say, I've also been offering some genuine advice and support to the elder Bentley sibling and can't wait to pop up and spend some time with my new niece and her family.
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The funny thing is, I remember just how Jim felt in those first few weeks after your first baby arrives. My tomfoolery is borne out of personal experience and understanding that he has yet to gain. I recall how meticulous Hayley and I were with every detail in those early days, worrying over each and every gesture, movement and sigh emanating from our little one.
Now, with the benefit of experience, things are a bit different. We survived the intense demands of time, attention and patience of the first few months and have mellowed into a more relaxed, competent and good-humoured style of parenting. Where once our worry over a few tears or tantrums went off the scale, we now work through the bumps, waterworks and setbacks that help make our little Bea a better and more rounded character for the years to come.
Turning to the Chiefs' result in Glasgow last week, I can see the parallels. Experience has taught us not to get too het up in the immediacy of the moment and look at the bigger picture.
I recall the times when a defeat was akin to the end of the world in the camp. In our Championship days, a loss was viewed as a catastrophe with a Spanish-style inquisition never far behind. How times have changed. Our days at the elite level have grown week-on-week, month-on-month, into our fourth season at rugby's top table. The lessons are being learned and a growing experience is teaching us to take stock, analyse the facts, regroup and address the issues.
Like maturing parents, the Chiefs are getting better and better with the benefits of time and that all-so-important experience.
On the back of our bumper win against Cardiff, the loss in Scotland was indeed a difficult pill to swallow. However, with 18 of Glasgow's players named in the national squad for the autumn tests, the Warriors are top of their domestic league for a reason. Denying them a bonus while garnering one of our own will, I believe, pay dividends later on.
Experience tells us that after the first two games in a group containing two teams topping their national league and the other chock full of internationals, we should be smiling and well pleased with our Heineken performance to date. Look at the table and its great to see the Chiefs in the top berth!
Like my old man said, you can't take a pill for experience.
I believe that this Chiefs squad is ready to take the next big step in our growth and development. We've lived through the past three elite level years, lessons have been learned, groundwork covered and experience gained. We are better prepared for the tests and challenges of Heineken Cup rugby and are now experienced enough to take it in our stride.
A little further down the road in Exmouth, the guys are finding the experience pill a tough one to swallow after another heart-wrenching defeat on the road in the Duchy.
With Redruth not really showing a lot of form, this was seen as a game that the Cockles could and perhaps should have won. With new signing Luke Chapman from the Chiefs academy bolstering the front row, Exmouth's early exchanges were quite heartening.
Unfortunately as the game wore on, the famous Hellfire Corner took another victim. A combination of indiscipline and, you guessed it, greater experience saw the Reds take the spoils and deny even a losing bonus point, with a try right on the final whistle.
There is a lot of National League rugby still to play for Exmouth and there are no alarm bells going off just yet in the heliotrope camp. Lessons need to be learned pretty quickly and the confidence that comes with experience needs to raise its head if we are to start turning the ifs and maybes into the intensity that brings the wins!
Following on with the paternal theme, I'm very privileged to be attending the christening of another former Chiefs child.
This weekend a big group of former County Grounders will convene to wish Alan 'Mist' Miller all the best as young Olive is formally welcomed into the world. With the second half of the famous Team Mandela, Richard Liddington, jetting over from Ireland, it's fair to say that we can expect a few shenanigans to be taking place post-game as Liddy recounts his time representing America in the World Cup (when a Chief) and his now infamous tackle on a certain Gregor Townsend!
And finally its official, the biggest bet of the century is on. Captain fantastic Dean Mumm has not only accepted my challenge but matched the original bounty and the top-scoring second row will receive all of one pound come the end of the season!
With my Chiefs commitments now limiting my Exmouth pitch time, Dean is something of a favourite, but with my greater experience (see what I did there) I'm still hoping to get over the whitewash a few more times. Watch this space...
Until next time, stay safe and enjoy your rugby.