Dean Richards credited Newcastle Falcons for fighting back against Leicester Tigers in Friday's 30-28 home loss, but says they cannot afford a repeat of their slow start.
Newcastle trailed 22-0 after tries from Harry Thacker, Seremaia Bai and Riccardo Brugnara, but earned themselves a pair of bonus points as Todd Clever, Ruki Tipuna and Chris Harris added to a first-half penalty try.
“I was pleased with the way the lads battled back, although I was more disappointed by the way in which we started the game,” said Richards after a full-blooded Kings of the North encounter.
“We didn't really show up for the first 20 minutes and didn't bring the physicality we know we have.
“It was a little bit of physicality and a little bit of accuracy. We have to question why we didn't turn up at the start, and we will have a look at that.”
The Director of Rugby added: “I thought the turning point for us was Todd Clever's try on his debut.That gave us a bit of belief and from then on in it was all Newcastle, really.
“Fair dues to the boys because because they stuck at it, pulled themselves round and got right back into the game.
“The amount of opportunities we missed in the second half was quite large, and the lads thought we'd won it at the end.”
Happy with what Clever delivered in an energetic debut, Richards said of his American signing: “Todd throws himself around and it was a great start for him, but I thought there were telling contributions from a lot of players.
“Will Welch was outstanding yet again, Alex Rogers on the tight-head fared well and Dan Temm impressed from the bench. Calum Green made a good contribution and we finished with an incredibly young back line when you look at the age of our replacements.
“Craig Willis is doing really well at Fly Half. He is three games into his career at this level, and people have to remember that. He has made a few mistakes, but we all do. He is doing well and I was pleased with what he offered.”
Reporting minimal fuss on the injury front, the Falcons' boss revealed: “Adam Powell came off with a bloody nose. We were going to bring him off at half-time anyway, and Zach Kibirige tweaked his hamstring slightly. He thinks he will be OK and it was purely a precaution, and there was nothing more on top of that.”
Convinced his side had won the game through a pair of late tries which weren't given, Richards said: “The first one was Ruki Tipuna's quick tap. He swears blind that he didn't knock it on and you have to take him at his word.
“The second one was Chris Harris right at the end, and it was clearly a try. We have had a look at it, and had their been a video referee here it would have been given. When there is no video ref you have to make it clear and obvious, which is difficult, but it was a great effort at the end from the boys.”
Despite losing all three of their Kings of the North games Richards believes the competition has been a valuable exercise, saying ahead of Friday's trip to Sale Sharks: “It has been a massively useful tournament for us.
“When you look at the back three which finished the game - Ed Coulson, Dan Marshall and Tom Penny – it is probably one of the youngest to play at this level. They will have learned a huge amount from that, and they fared really well.”
For the full interview with Richards click here.