Matt Riley season preview

Matt Riley on beating Fylde, pre-season and entering his twelfth year as a Sedge player

Matt Riley feels Sedgley Park are in good place following their efforts over the course of pre-season as they wrapped up their August schedule with a 46-26 win over Fylde at Woodlands.

Earlier in the month, Sedge were involved in a series of round robin friendly matches against Macclesfield, Caldy and National Two South outfit, Redingensians, with Matt Bebbington’s side losing to Macc and the Rams before clinching a victory over current National Two Champions.

The men from Park Lane then finished off their preparations for the new campaign with victory on home soil as they ran in eight tries to seal the win against Fylde, leaving Riley to reflect on a decent build-up to their National Two North opener at Sheffield Tigers.

“Putting 40 points on Fylde and only conceding 20 is tough to do,” he told the club’s website. “We were missing a couple of lads, but we were really pleased with how it went.

“I know they had a number of players missing too and they are also under a new coach, but it was still a great result. The most pleasing thing is that we have scored 15 tries in just over two games of rugby, but we have also conceded about 12. I’d be more worried if we weren’t scoring tries!

“If we tighten up our defence and work on our discipline a bit more, then I think we will be quite a tough team to beat. The first game of any season is always important and we want to get off to a positive start, but we are in a good place heading into next month.”

Riley, who was named captain for this season, will be more than aware that his side shouldn’t read too much into their victory over Fylde, but he is still pleased with the way the squad has gelled and adapted to the new methods introduced by Matt Bebbington.

“It’s gone really well,” continued Riley. “If you had asked me at the start of July, I would’ve said that there were still a few lads adapting. However, everyone is now starting to really understand their roles and everything is starting to come together. Every training session shows that things are becoming second nature so hopefully by next Saturday, everything will be spot on.

“Added to that, I think everyone who has joined has fitted straight in. It seems like they have been here for a few years! It is going to be tough for Matt and Jonny [Roddam] to pick a squad for that first league game because there are so many players who have put their hand up. There is competition for places across the pitch which is only a good thing.”

On an individual note, Riley is entering his 12th season with Sedge as the club continues to aim for the top spots in National Two North and the 31-year old admits this campaign is set to be one of the toughest since he began his career at Park Lane.

He added: “Jonny, who has just come in as coach, he was playing when I joined 12 years ago. We were talking the other day about the different lads who used to play at Sedge as well as memorable matches and Jonny said ‘No way! You have never left since then!’

“A lot has changed as you can imagine! We’re now in National Two North and it is a league which we are competitive in. We do win more games than we lose which is a contrast to when I first started playing here and for me, it is more enjoyable because we are in a division where we expect to be towards the top of the league.

“This is season is by far the toughest in terms of teams in the division. You have the likes of Macclesfield and Blaydon joining an already strong league. The teams around us have strengthened too, but we will just be focused on ourselves and hopefully all our hard work over the summer will pay off.”

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