Nottingham Rugby prop Michael Holford not underestimating London Scottish test
BY handling the pressure to beat promotion rivals Bedford Blues, Nottingham Rugby sent out a real statement of intent.
With both sides on the same points, the Green and Whites second and the Blues third, it was a pressurised game at Meadow Lane in front of the live Sky Sports television cameras.
But it was Martin Haag's men who kept their composure on home turf to triumph 25-17.
It has put them clear in second, behind Championship leaders Newcastle Falcons, and for prop Michael Holford, it is about staying there.
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They face lowly London Scottish away tomorrow and then Jersey on their travels the following week.
But while there is a chance for two bonus-point victories to further improve their position, there is a real threat too.
And the experienced Holford said it is imperative the Greens do not undo all their good work from two weeks previous, when they return to action tomorrow at the Athletic Ground (12.15pm).
"There is no point playing so well against Bedford and then not turning up against these two teams. That would make the Bedford win irrelevant," said Holford.
"We have been putting the other sides away and we put both London Scottish and Jersey to bed at home, now we have to do the same away.
"Scottish have got some experienced players that we all know well and they have played at Premiership level.
"They beat Bedford too and they are a good side and have a new coaching regime down there.
"They will be well versed in the set-piece and defence but we are more than capable of getting the win.
"We have applied ourselves well all season and have to do the same here.
"And Jersey are a good side who have ground out a few wins. They had a shaky start as they were running themselves in but they are a good side with exciting backs and a couple of old, gnarly forwards.
"It is a couple of days trip, flying down on the Friday so it is a different mind-set. I have been there before, flying to France and Ireland but for some of the lads, it will be new.
"But we want eight points from these two games and anything else is a bonus and that would keep us bubbling away and a step above the others in second spot."
At one point, Nottingham thought they would be playing Llandovery last weekend in their rearranged B&I Cup game.
But that match was rescheduled for later this month, giving the players a weekend off. And Holford believes it has helped them prepare to the full for tomorrow's trip.
Yet, despite their lofty position, the prop does not think there is any extra pressure on his team.
"We all know the game structure and that is all put in place and we understand it to a man what we are doing," said Holford.
"We have a good side with experienced players who have played in the Premiership who can be in any of the squads in the top flight.
"We have a lot of pace in the side and also have some exciting young players.
"There was a lot of pressure on the television game because it was second versus third and we were on the same points.
"And we owed them one because we lost to them in the earlier rounds.
"But I do not think there is pressure building on us. No one expected us to do anything this season and people were writing us off at the start.
"We have proved a lot of people wrong but the pressure we do have is what we put on ourselves, we do that in training and in games.
"We always train at a real intensity and you do that because if you train badly, often you play badly.
"But everybody is really enjoying it and you are going to get that in a winning team.
"Haagy coming in has freshened things up and there is a good camaraderie in the squad.
"There were some tough days early on when we did not know what was going to happen. We were in limbo.
"We all stuck together, Haagy arrived and it has gone well. It is an enjoyable place to be and the banter is flying around, everyone's good friends."