Forwards coach Micky Ward says Newcastle Falcons need to focus on the basics after a sloppy second-half performance during Sunday’s 45-29 victory over Ampthill.
The Kingston Park triumph leaves the Falcons 11 points clear at the top of the Championship at the league’s half-way stage, Newcastle flying into a convincing early lead but conceding a four-try bonus point during a disappointing closing half-hour.
“We went from playing some of our best rugby of the season in the first half to some of our worst,” admitted Ward.
“In that first half we were clinical, intense, we got numbers to the breakdown, stuck to script and did everything we talked about.
“In the second half we were totally the opposite - we started doing things we hadn’t talked about, the script went out the window, we weren’t physical enough, we forced offloads and just allowed them back into the game.
“Ampthill got their dander up, they ran hard at us and we just didn’t sort it out. It was very disappointing to end that way after such a good start, and we’ve sat down and talked about it.”
Ward added: “In the first half we tipped on at the right time and we moved it wide at the right time, and that gave us the chance to win the gain line.
“In the second half there were a number of occasions where we tipped on or forced the offload when guys weren’t in the right position, which then cost us gain-line. Our breakdown work just wasn’t at the standard we’ve set and we ended up over-chasing, which meant we didn’t come round with the intensity of the first half.
“The referee got on our back a little bit but we didn’t help ourselves, because we weren’t winning the contacts like we were in the first half. We were forcing things that weren’t on, and the after-effects of that were what cost us.
“That fuelled Ampthill’s fire, the referee started to see us differently and it’s that vicious circle.”
Travelling to Hartpury on Saturday, the Falcons’ record appearance maker said: “Hartpury rested a lot of their big boys at Ealing this weekend to keep them fresh for us on Saturday, and they’ll have an eye on today’s second half thinking they can turn us over.
“That’s all true, but we can’t also forget the good work in that first 40 or 50 minutes. We’re still 11 points clear at the top of the table and we’ve not lost a game all season, so we need to keep a sense of perspective.
“Yes, there were a few things in that second half that weren’t right and need to be worked on, but hopefully it just heightens our awareness going into the next few games.
“If that last half-hour has told us anything it’s that we can’t afford to cruise in this league, and if we don’t do the simple things we’ll we get found out.
“When we run hard and get our basics right we score tries, and that’s what we’ve got to be looking at as we move forward.”
The Falcons’ next home game is against Cornish Pirates on Sunday February 16. Tickets for the 3pm kick-off are available by clicking here.