ALEX Crockett believes Newcastle Falcons’ mud-men can be spared from too much criticism despite failing to convert their chances at Cross Keys.
The centre was among the players battling horrendous conditions on a boggy Pandy Park surface as a pair of penalty tries and one apiece for Warren Fury and Ollie Stedman secured them a 34-3 triumph.
That was enough to guarantee a home quarter-final in the British and Irish Cup, Crockett stating: “It was never going to be a night for the backs.
“When we got off the bus, the pitch actually looked all right from a distance, but once we got out there for the warm-up you could feel your feet sinking into it straightaway.
“Fair play to Cross Keys because, by all accounts, their ground-staff worked wonders to even get the game on by pumping a lot of water from the field, so it is by no means a criticism of them.
“It just meant from a players’ point of view that everything was quite one-paced, and we basically had 15 prop-forwards out there!” Forced into a pragmatic game-plan, the former Bath, Bristol and Worcester man said: “I barely touched the ball all night – all I did was tackle and chase kicks.
“It is not ideal, but is the sort of thing you just have to do from time to time when the conditions dictate that you can’t really play any other way.
“In those instances you know you are going to have to do a lot of kick-chasing, and it is just a case of mentally preparing yourself for the fact you won’t be getting much ball in hand to work with.
“We did still try to pass it around a bit and make use of the space when it was there, but it eluded us a little and a few chances went bobbling to the ground.”
Director of rugby Dean Richards remained sanguine afterwards despite their part-time Welsh hosts remaining in contention for much of the game, and Crockett’s post-match verdict echoed the sentiments of his boss.
He said: “Overall we were fairly happy. I don’t think we can be too hard on ourselves because the conditions made it incredibly difficult to do much more than we did, so to get the four tries and maximum points was not a bad return.
“We know we could have been a bit more clinical, and there were quite a few occasions where we got into their 22 but didn’t quite finish things off.
“That is an area of our game where we are trying to make improvements so we are being quite tough on ourselves during analysis, and again it was something we could have sharpened up on.” Highlighting a handful of positives from a night where basic skills were under the microscope, Crockett added: “Our kick-chase was pretty good, our tackling and defensive organisation went pretty well and our ideas were generally sound.
“A slippery ball and a muddy field prevented us from doing some of what we wanted to do, but it was the same for both teams and you just get on with it.”
Glad to have avoided a similar trip in the last eight of the competition, he said: “Home advantage in the quarter-finals is massive, not least because it saves us having to make a 600-mile round-trip like we did on Friday.
“Seven hours on a bus is never ideal, especially when you are sat next to Joel Hodgson!
“In all seriousness, though, our home form is a source of great pride to us.
“We love playing at Kingston Park, and for our supporters the chance to get a home game in the knock-out rounds of a cup is something to hopefully look forward to.”