FOR Sedgley Park's part-time first team to have won a third of its games when more than half the 16-strong National Division One is now full-time is no mean feat.

And with a better start, and fewer injuries, the 13th place finish achieved by the Tigers could easily have been bettered.

So the 43-21 defeat away to fourth-placed Exeter Chiefs last Saturday, on the final day of the season, must be put into perspective. Indeed, to many observers it highlighted the fact the gap between top five and bottom five is not that big. Just don't say that in earshot of Tigers' Director of Rugby, Tim Fourie.

"If we had played to our potential we could have given it a go and maybe got a lot closer to them," said the South African warhorse.

"In attack we are trying to score every time we have possession, but we don't need miracle plays, we don't need to play seven-a-side rugby.

"What we do need to do, and it was just as evident against Exeter as it has been against the likes of Waterloo and Otley, is to dismantle the opposition's defence by hanging on to the ball before looking for an opening.

"Against Exeter we showed that ability in glimpses, but that isn't enough."

Indeed it was a display that showed how far the club has come in its three years in National Division One.

"I've been delighted with the season; we won 10 out of 30 games, over two-thirds of the team was new to each other and it took us 10 games to get our first win," he explained.

"Most people reckon November and December are the really difficult months to win in, but we won four out of eight, including one away during that time and we just improved from then on."

As for next season, he does not want anyone to get carried away.

He added: "Despite all the strides we have made our focus first and foremost will be simply to survive. More and more teams are going full-time and more and more of the part-time ones have more and more full-time players they can call on.

"Just look at the new teams that will be in the division next season. There is Northampton, relegated from the Guinness Premiership who get a £2.2m parachute payment as well as still having former All Blacks in their side.

"Coming up are Esher and Launceston.

"Esher is a very wealthy club and they will be able to recruit good players while Launceston pick up all the players that the likes of Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance let go, so it isn't going to get any easier, if anything it will be harder.

"We can't compete financially with the majority of clubs so we have to try to achieve success in a different way. We will be retaining most of the squad and maybe only adding three or four, so we should benefit from being a tight, close-knit outfit that fights for one another.

"So don't expect us to shoot up the table next season because it is going to be another tough campaign where we will be fighting for out league lives, but we will continue to give it all we've got."

There is still one more game for the Tigers to face, the final of the Lancashire Cup against Manchester at Fylde on Monday, kick-off 3pm.

To get there Sedgley beat Preston Grasshoppers away on Wednesday. The game finished all square at 27-27, but the Tigers went through by virtue of scoring four tries to three.