After weeks of questioning his players, Ian Smith has praised his Moseley squad and revealed the secret behind their recent renaissance is the fact they are now as physical with each other as they are their opponents.
The head coach, whose side has just ended a run of performances as poor as any during his six-year tenure, watched with a mixture of relief and satisfaction as Mose located the corner at Rotherham earlier this month and turned it at home to Doncaster last Friday.
Tries from Anthony Carter and Mike Gillick, a vintage kicking demonstration from Ollie Thomas and a hugely committed display from their pack, produced a 27-15 victory that lifted them to ninth in the table and out of a debilitating rut.
Moseley may yet finish in the bottom four and have to endure the nightmare of a second round of relegation play-offs but at least they are not sleep-walking their way towards a ruinous demotion.
And Smith says it is his praiseworthy players who have arrested their decline. “The credit lies with the players, it always does,” he said. “They have trained really well and responded to what we have done. We have talked a lot but we have trained very well in the last two or three weeks and that’s the key. It’s been led from within, which was pleasing to see.
“Being more physical in training is the major factor. As coaches Don [Caskie] and I – in years gone by – and Kevin and I now, always reflect on what we are doing. The first port of call when you see a side perform as we have been is you question yourself and what you are doing, what your methods are and are you getting things over correctly?
“We have had to change a little bit. We hadn’t been doing the amount of physical work we clearly needed because of the injuries we have had.
“We had no back row at one point and we were aware any more injuries could have really hurt us. But we have just got to get on with it and manage whatever happens. We’ve got Wag and Ponsy back and Chevvy to come back in so it’s a bit easier to do more contact in training.”
Indeed Smith made the bold move of leaving the talismanic Neil ‘Wag’ Mason on the bench against the Knights. The young trio of Michael Maltman, Michael Ellery and Ben Pons responded superbly to the extra responsibility, a fact not lost on the coach.
“Wag has had a recent history of injuries. We have just got to make sure he is fit, it’s no good putting a bloke on the field when he is not fully ready to go and expecting him to last 80 minutes.
“We are lucky we can manage him correctly and that the people who started fronted up and performed.”