WITH the announcement of the final league standings by the Rugby Football Union (RFU), Bridgwater & Albion director of rugby Geoff Sluman has shared his thoughts on the season that was ended abruptly by the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic, writes Richard Walsh.

Sluman said: “Rugby in this area is healthy and I would like to start by congratulating our friends at Taunton Titans, who gained promotion into National 1 [the third tier of rugby in England], and Hornets, who were crowned our league [South West 1 West] winners and have also gained promotion.

“The RFU have used a formula system to calculate the final league position for each club and we have been placed seventh in the table.

“Like most things, you can look at that in a couple of different ways.

“You could consider it a lack of progress as we definitely had ambition to finish higher.

“On the other hand, the league has increased in standard and competitiveness so we have had to improve just to maintain where we are.

“I always look for the areas in which we can improve, no matter how well we do, and I have to admit that we were just not consistent enough.

“Some very impressive performances were sadly not always followed up the next week.

“We often performed well against the better sides, but I would like us to go just that little bit further and turn that doing well into a win and then to maintain that momentum - obviously much easier said than done!”

Sluman was, however, full of praise for the Albion players.

“The effort and commitment from the players has been excellent throughout, so overall I am very pleased,” he said.

“The whole squad are also looking for every area to improve upon and we are not afraid to say that.

“So my headline would be that I am extremely pleased and proud of the way all of the players have performed this season.

“Often these things happen in incremental steps so putting in some excellent performances is a forerunner to higher and more consistent displays - you do not just jump there by magic, so we are on the right flight path!

“It was a strange season, not just because of the way that it finished.

“We lost St Ives who folded early in the season, and the two sides that came into our league from the league above - Newton Abbot and Cleve - ended the season by being relegated.

“That is a sign of how competitive things are.

“We were managing our squad for the full season and left some players out some weeks, thinking about wanting them available for a strong finish to the season, and then of course that did not materialise [due to the season ending early].

“However, I am confident that we did the right things and exposed more players to first team rugby, which has strengthened our squad for the future.”

Looking ahead to the 2020/21 campaign, Sluman said: “This coming season is likely to see Wellington, St Austell and Stroud promoted into our league, with probably Newbury coming down from the league above, so we will be reacquainted with some teams who we have faced previously.”

Sluman was also full of praise for Albion’s other teams, saying: “Another area that was pleasing for us was the performance of our second team, who finished fourth in their league [Somerset 1].

“Those players really add competition for places and keep anyone playing in the first team fighting for their place.

“The Ladies team also developed massively during the year and they are now ready for much more.

“In summing up my thoughts on the season in just a few words, I would say that we have developed our existing squad and introduced some great new players.

“I am pleased and proud of what the whole club has achieved - from the first team to the youth section, and all of the off-field support as well.

“We have already started to think about next season and are keen for that to start as soon as it is able to begin.

“I hope everyone stays safe and well, and I look forward to seeing you all next season.”