Dean Richards credited Newcastle Falcons' youngsters after a 36-19 defeat at Leicester Tigers.
The director of rugby was satisfied by much of what he saw during a first half which saw the sides level on 19 points each, the Tigers pulling away for their first Kings of the North victory.
Richards said: “We had hoped for more at half-time but, having said that, you have got to be realistic. With the youngsters we had on the bench and the numbers we had missing – something like 28 – it is difficult. We were down to the bare bones, but I was quite pleased in some respects.”
He added: “After 50 minutes we were doing alright. We had to do a little bit of safeguarding with some players, and we didn't quite have the experience to bring on. Being level at half-time in itself was a plus point, because we had made quite a lot of mistakes. We need to sort out those defensive errors but, having said that, we capitalised on the other parts of the game and scored three tries with relative ease.”
Giving game time to a number of his academy men, Richards said: “A lot of our young players were put into positions of responsibility, and will have learned from the experience. Craig Willis, Brett Connon, Ruaridh Dawson – they are all 18, 19 or 20, and they will have learnt a lot."
“When you look at what Leicester put out there compared to us it did tell later on, but there is a huge amount we can take from it. We always knew that it was going to be difficult after 50 minutes, and that was the way it went.”
Losing Sean Robinson and Adam Powell to injury during a keenly-contested game, the Falcons' boss said: “Sean strained his knee so we will have to see how that is, and Powelly was brought off as a precaution after taking a knock to his elbow. Michael Young will be back to play a part next week, so it is not all bad news.”
Thanking Newcastle Thunder rugby league pair Jason Tali and Ali Blair for making their club débuts, he said: “Ali and Jason very kindly put their names forward, and in that respect we were delighted to have them on board. Both guys have played rugby union before so they know what it is about, and they have helped us out. It was always going to be difficult for them but they put their hand up, as did Jim Wigglesworth from Doncaster. He played well, and it was a good effort.”