Dean Richards admitted rustiness was a factor for his Newcastle Falcons side on Friday night as they suffered their first competitive defeat since May 2019, losing 33-20 at home to Cardiff Blues.
The European Rugby Challenge Cup opener saw the Falcons leading 17-13 at half-time, only for their more experienced Welsh visitors to take the spoils.
Speaking after the game, the director of rugby said: “The result is always important, and you can’t get away from the fact we didn’t get the ‘W’ we wanted.
“Having said that, there are a lot of boys out there tonight who haven’t played for a long time, and that rustiness really showed.
“We’ve just sat down and chatted about it in the changing room – how to put those wrongs right – but it shows when you don’t play at this level for that length of time.”
Finding his side hit hard by the penalty count, Richards said: “We found ourselves under pressure at times, there were some refereeing decisions which were perhaps not that accurate but you just have to take that and adapt.
“You have to react and understand what the referee is looking for, and those penalties in the first 15 minutes put us under a lot of pressure.
“Had we performed in the second half as we had done in the first we’d have probably won the game, and that was very much the feeling among the players.
“Cardiff Blues came up here with more experience than us, their guys had played more than most of ours and it showed.
“Fair dues to them, I thought they were the better team on the night and that was partly down to the game time that they’ve had.
“There were big learnings there for our guys, as there will be next weekend away to Castres, and this can be a useful competition for us.”