Lee Smith says a fortnight without a game could be to the benefit of him and his Newcastle Falcons team.
The former England rugby league international was thrown in for his Premiership debut against Premiership champions Leicester on March 2, playing the full 80 minutes less than a month after crossing codes.
Smashing over a long-range penalty and making the break for Noah Cato’s first-half try, the Yorkshireman has been using the interlude between matches to further sharpen his union credentials ahead of Saturday’s resumption at Gloucester.
Smith said: “Having this break was a nuisance in a way because I wanted to keep going, but it could be a blessing from another angle.
“It means I can step back and have a proper review of my first game after being thrown in from the start against the champions, and hopefully I can keep improving.” Critical of his own performance despite a debut with plenty of promise, the ex-Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats man is still reeling from failing to haul down Leicester powerhouse Vereniki Goneva in the move which led to the Fijian scoring down Smith’s wing.
He said: “Goneva just caught me for that first try because I was rushing to get up into the line. He got me on my inside shoulder, and it was just very, very weak from me if I am totally honest.
“It was a fantastic finish though and he is one of the very best around, so it was a great experience to be up against him.
“The fact Leicester swapped their wingers around at times during the game shows they felt threatened by what we were doing, and you have to take as a positive the fact that I might have been troubling a side as good as them.” Finding further room for improvement, the 27-year-old added: “Getting the ball in hand and getting into the breakdowns is something I am learning on the hoof a little bit, and I know it needs work.
“That is the new stuff to me, but the catching, passing and evasive running are pretty transferrable from one code to the other.
“It is the technical bits I need to focus on, and there was one ruck when I got there but managed to clean the guy out. I will pick that up as I go along, but overall I was half-pleased with my debut.”
Showing quality from the kicking tee the Falcons’ new-boy drilled a long-range penalty in difficult conditions and was only a whisker away from a touchline conversion into the wind after sharing kicking duties with regular marksman Phil Godman. “I wish I could hit my driver that straight,” joked Smith, when asked if he was the driver and Godman the seven-iron. “When I knew I was playing in the week leading up to the game I just started hitting a few in training.
“I have always had a pretty decent boot on me, and in Phil we have a very accurate kicker but one whose range is probably a bit limited. If I can pop in and take a few off him from further out then that might help the team a little bit, and I hit that first penalty sweet as a nut. I knew straightaway it was going over, and it was a great start.”
The Falcons remain 11 points clear from the foot of the Premiership as basement boys Worcester sit without a victory to their name, only six games remaining of the regular season.
The Warriors visit Kingston Park a week on Sunday in a televised encounter which could all but seal Newcastle’s Premiership status, with only the bottom-placed side automatically relegated.