Scott Lawson says the work is only just beginning despite Newcastle Falcons’ encouraging start to the Aviva Premiership season – the side next in action at Bath on Saturday (3pm).
Having won all four of their pre-season games the Scottish hooker was part of the team which defeated Sale Sharks 19-17 last Friday, the first time in nine years they have triumphed in their league opener.
“We feel like we are building something, the new guys have made a big difference and are working with the guys who have been here a while,” said the experienced front-rower.
“Our pre-season opposition was spot-on because we had a good progression through Nottingham, Doncaster and Edinburgh as the three main games. We also had Gala RFC thrown in and we got results in all four. To then take that into a victory in the Premiership opener was really heartening.
“It all came together to get a good result against Sale, but we are under no illusions and we know it is just a start. The Aviva Premiership is the toughest league in the world, it is notorious for its physicality and we have been able to post an early win on the board.”
Keen to maintain a sense of perspective, the former Gloucester and London Irish man added: “We have played one and won one. Nobody is getting carried away when there are so many games left to go, but what it does do is create a confidence around the place. We have got off to a good start in what is a long, attritional season. We need to maintain those standards but it is a far better start than we have had in the recent past.
“We got the result last Friday and our performance was a lot better than the score suggested. We know we need to be a lot more clinical in putting points on the board when we are in the ascendancy, but what it does do is give you that belief that what you are doing is right. We are making scoring chances, playing with width and when we do that we will win games of rugby.
“Sale picked a team to come up and dominate us physically, and we more than matched them. They made changes at half time because of how the game was going, ultimately that was a compliment to us and we do have those foundations of scrum, maul, line-out and breakdown. It is a given that those facets have to turn up every week, but on top of that we have got more balance to our game now.
“Guys have good heads on them and we have absolute class out wide with players like Sinoti Sinoti and Vereniki Goneva. We as a forward pack understand that without those foundations you are wasting your time having quality like that on the wings, and with my forwards hat on you strive to get those guys into the game every week. We want to be a pack that can be relied upon every single game to have at least parity, and ideally a degree of dominance. That’s what it is all about.”
Citing a revamped pre-season regime as part of the reason for the Falcons’ upturn in form, Lawson said: “We had a great summer. We have worked really hard, and the balance between rugby and our strength and conditioning work has been spot-on. We have got ourselves really rugby-fit, we won all our pre-season games and have taken that form into the league. Ultimately that is what it is about.
“We have had a big focus on our rugby fitness during pre-season. When you get physical fatigue it leads to mental fatigue, and that is when you can make mistakes in games. You want to eliminate those and we altered the balance of pre-season slightly. We focused more on rugby-specific fitness which, especially for a front-five forward, has been really good. We are making good decisions at key times during matches, we have a solid base and the fitter you are the more easily you can recover after games, which is so important in this league.
“I have done a few pre-seasons, and what you can always say is that you’re fit and that you’ve done your conditioning, weights and testing. All teams have done that, but ultimately it is about how you put it onto the field. Going into the Sale game last Friday we had a real confidence about what we had done in pre-season, we had the balance right and the results we have achieved are a reflection of that.”
Well aware that Bath also enjoyed a winning start to the Aviva Premiership, the Scot added: “They went away to Northampton in week one and got a result, we won our own first game and in that sense it is an exciting challenge for both teams.
“Bath have got enough quality as a club to warrant a lot of respect, but we can also take heart from our first game and travel down there with confidence rather than fear. People might say Bath finished below their expectations last season, but the same is true for ourselves. Given the financial input at Bath and the infrastructure around the place they might well feel they have underachieved, but all that it’s about on Saturday is two teams wanting to put a win on the board for the second week in a row.
“We understand the challenge, we feel like we are in a good place and we have momentum behind us. Looking back to last season we had to wait until Christmas to get that feeling and, while one win doesn’t mean we’ve cracked it, we have certainly saved two or three months of anguish and stewing over results by winning first time out.”