Old Rutlishians skipper Alex Berring may have one eye on this weekend’s Surrey Shield, but he has the other on the club’s long-term future.
After last weekend’s 18-21 defeat to near neighbours Old Emanuel, Berring’s charges are second from bottom in Surrey Division Two.
However, relegation is not an issue with CL London dropping out, and bottom club Worth Old Boys languishing 15 points adrift.
On an afternoon where the club remembered former player Steve Wilkinson with a minute’s silence, Old Ruts tries from Tom Worrall (two) and Josh Hullah, and a Freddy Villiers penalty, were not enough.
Old Ruts take on divisional rival Old Bec Boys at home this weekend in the first round of the Shield, and while Berring, in his first season as skipper, believes victory is in their hands, it is a foundation the 25-year-old is more interested in.
“This is a building season. Last season we were fighting relegation, this season we’re looking to progress and establish ourselves in the league and then push ourselves on for promotion next year,” he said.
“We have a lot of new players coming in - we have an entirely new back line and a lot of new players in the pack. They are beginning to establish relationships with each other, working on systems and formats – it all takes time.
“There are also a lot of boys on the bench who are pushing for a first team place, which is great for competition.”
He added: “It is a young team with an average age of about 23 that is looking to develop for the next five or six seasons.
“In three or four years, this team will be at its peak and we want promotion to Surrey One, and more beyond that.”
Away from the league, Old Ruts know what to expect when they welcome Old Bec to Poplar Road for the Surrey Shield clash.
Berring said: “It’s a good little derby. They are a good team and it is always a physical battle – a fight for 80 minutes.
“On our day we can beat them, it is just a case of fronting up on the day. We’re missing a few key players at the moment, so it is all hands to the pump.
“We have the belief and we’re focussed on it. We got to the Surrey Bowl final last year, so it is something to play for. We know what it takes to get to a final.”
Berring will be hoping “little mistakes” that robbed Old Ruts of a win over Old Emanuel will not raise their head again.
Having charged into a 10-0 lead, thanks to tries from Worrall and Hullah, Old Ruts allowed the visitors back into the game and trailed 10-13 at the break.
Villiers’s penalty levelled the scores, only for an Old Emanuel kick to restore their lead at 13-16.
When Worrall went over to give Old Ruts a slender lead with moments to go, a mistake from the kick-off gifted possession to the visitors and a charge over the white line for the win.
Berring said: “We took out foot off the pedal and got a little complacent and they came back at us – they are a good team with a big strong set of forwards.
“We went off the boil for 20 minutes and in the end it turned into a bit of a dog-fight.”
He added: “It was small mistakes that cost us in the end, we had two kick-offs that did not go to plan. To lose 10 points off kick-offs is disappointing, these are set plays that we should be tightening up on.”