PRESTON Lodge RFC sit proudly at the top of National League Division Three after a terrific start to the campaign which has seen only one defeat in 12 matches.

The Prestonpans side faced an unfortunate relegation last season after restructuring saw a new National League Four added to the pyramid.

Despite their mid-table finish in National League Two, PL succumbed to the drop but have bounced back brilliantly in their hunt for an immediate return.

They sit three points clear of as-yet unbeaten Orkney at the top of the table having played a game more – the two were due to face off at the Pennypit earlier this month but the fixture fell foul of the weather.

Mark Steedman, Preston Lodge head coach, spoke to Courier Sport about the campaign so far and the culture changes that had been implemented to create the conditions for success.

He said: “After last season, finishing mid-table and being relegated, we needed to change some things. We needed to change the culture.

“One thing was sticking by the boys who are training consistently.”

However, bringing a stronger social aspect back to the club has also been key to Steedman and his fellow coaches.

He added: “It was important to get the boys back socialising again – rugby is a social sport. We have worked hard on that.

“There is a really good feeling in the club and the coaching staff.”

And that culture change instigated in pre-season has paid dividends as PL continue to build momentum and consistently win games – at times very comfortably.

Steedman said: “We had a really good off-season – and it has been snowballing from there. We have scraped a couple of results but it’s a lot better than last season.”

PL have only tasted defeat once this season, a narrow four-point loss in Orkney, with an enviable points difference that has seen them only concede 180 points while inflicting 517 on their opponents – the highest in the league by some margin.

One of the keys to this has been keeping last year’s young squad together.

Steedman said: “The team buy into the ethos of the club.

“It’s a very young team – there are three or four older heads but it’s a young side.”

He highlighted players such as teenager Fraser Falgate, who has been immense with the boot, stepping up at key times to secure points, along with those who have come into the side due to injuries and “making a difference”.

He added that it was about “giving the youth a shot” and striving to keep this developing side together in the years to come.

Steedman said of the team’s attacking focus: “It’s just about having confidence in the way we play.

“We ask ourselves as coaches: ‘What do we need to do to let them play?’ We are confident if we go a try down that we can score two. And we are confident we can defend well.”

Steedman acknowledged that there had been an effort to play a more free-flowing rugby with a focus on offloads.

He added: “We give the players free rein. We aren’t negative towards the players if it doesn’t go well.

“It doesn’t phase them if they make a mistake, they just get up and go again.

“We don’t look at the scoreboard, just the performance.”