Whitchurch skipper Jonathan Cope has called on his teammates to be resilient after the Reds suffered their first back-to-back league defeats since 2016/17 on Saturday.

Whitchurch were edged out 17-20 by Hereford at Edgeley Park in Midlands 1 West in a closely-fought affair as they were denied the win at the death through a late try.

Cope insists results are tough to come by as players remain unavailable throughout September, but he is backing his players to pull together, starting with Longton next week.

“We were gutted to lose last week as the lads played with a lot of heart, and left everything on the pitch,” said the flanker.

“The lead changed hands throughout, but in the end it was very disappointing as we felt it was a game we could have won. Hereford had a good set of backs, stretched us, and we did not have much possession in the first half.

“But we defended well, and were more incisive in the second half. We were right on their line at the end, but it was not to be. We had a scratch team out, were missing six or seven players with some dropping out in the week.

“September is always a difficult month, but we will be a lot stronger this week with players to come back in. We need a win, and we are still very confident in our ability.”

Having got their noses in front with a second try from scrum half Joe Mullock, the Reds succumbed to a late score from Tom Starkey which was then followed by some resolute Hereford defence.

Mullock had also given the hosts an early lead when darting through a number of tackles to score an unconverted try in the corner. Within a few minutes, Hereford reduced the deficit with a James Stubbs penalty after Whitchurch were caught offside at the ruck.

After several threatening passing moves, the Wyesiders were then ahead when Sean Day cut back to score under the posts and Stubbs slotted the conversion for a 10-5 interval lead.

After the break, Whitchurch rallied and levelled the scores when prop Steve Bloore touched down following a forward drive after Hereford’s Matt Hill was given 10 minutes in the bin for dropping the scrum.

The momentum seemed to be with the home side, but the Wyesiders restored their lead when Ollie Hutcheson drove over the whitewash for an unconverted try following a line-out.

The end-to-end play continued before Mullock chased down a kick ahead to dot down for a try which was converted by Tom Skone to give Whitchurch a slender two-point lead.

Hereford rallied again and exerted pressure on the home defence before they managed to get their noses back in front. After kicking a penalty to the corner, the visitors won the lineout and moved the ball across field to Starkey who made a strong run to dive over. With time running out, the Reds pushed for a instant reply themselves, but were met by some spirited resistance on the line as their efforts were kept at bay.

Head coach Scott Sturdy returns on Saturday after missing the last two.