Having waited three matches to make his Greene King IPA Championship debut, centre Ronnie McLean wasn’t going to let defeat to Leeds Carnegie overshadow his pride in playing in English professional rugby’s second tier for the first time.
McLean lined up in the less familiar inside-centre role, having played outside-centre for most of his three years at the club. Even so he was his customary physical self in attack and defence.
“It was brilliant to put the shirt back on and play in such a massive game against Leeds, especially with the crowd they had and I was buzzing for the match,” he said.
“Personally I think I did alright, but disappointingly as a team were we weren’t able to deliver as well. I couldn’t wait to get back out onto the field, so to get out there and come out unscathed. It was good to play.”
Like all the team the US-born McLean was bitterly disappointed at the loss, but realises the size of the task he and his teammates were up against.
The Yorkshire side were gracing the Premiership only three seasons ago and play at the 22,250 capacity Headingley Carnegie Stadium, the second-largest club rugby stadium in the country, behind Leicester Tiger’s Welford Road.
“Leeds, they are going to be up and around the top and going for promotion this year and there was a bit of a difference between us and them,” he said. “Set piece they were more clinical and better than us. We were just struggling from the get-go and it was tough.
Next up for Trailfinders is a trip to Dublin and a clash with holders Leinster A in the British and Irish Cup. A week later the side return to Vallis Way for their second match in the competition against Welsh side Cross Keys.
McLean hopes that the side can continue their development in those to fixtures and carry it on when they return to league action away to Bedford Blues on 27 October.
“I think we are improving in fits and starts, but we need to bring a complete package. Every week we have to improve,” he said. “We have to keep improving and learning and Leinster will be a good tough match. We need to use each game to get that match sharpness.”
Ronnie McLean (12) gives teammate Chris Kinloch a hand during the match against Leeds