THE head coach of Dunfermline Rugby Club's men's first XV has targeted a top four finish this season - and hopes they could challenge for promotion next term.

Gavin Emerson has described the McKane Park outfit's first season in National League Division Four as one of "learning" so far, and said that the team are "ahead of where I thought we'd be at the start of the season".

Ahead of their game with North Berwick at weekend, Dunfermline had won four and lost three of their opening seven matches during their first season of National League rugby for eight years.

Emerson has been pleased with the progress of his team, who were winners of the Caledonia Region League Division One last term, and has set his targets high for the remainder of the current campaign and beyond.

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"For me, if we don't finish top four, I think we won't have done ourselves justice now," he said.

"It's good to always be able to review your targets and push the guys on a bit more.

"I never shared, at the start of the season, the targets with the guys that I had. It was just us in the coaching group saying, whenever you're firstly promoted into a higher league, your first challenge is just staying up in there and building in the first season.

"But we've had some great results against teams that were in a higher league last season, so it's maybe shown that there's not too much of a difference between the league above. It's just always the battle of getting out the league you're in.

"I think, if we work hard this season, and finish in a good space, then I think promotion the following season could be a real aspiration.

"We've definitely been learning. It's been a season of guys growing, building, and every weekend is like playing the top of the league last season.

"We're in the right place. We're ahead of where I thought we'd be at the start of the season, so it's a real positive. The guys are still turning up and they're still working hard - it's just trying to do a little bit extra week, in terms of their performance or their involvements in the game."

He added: "A big thing is it's a 19-man game in our league, so we need 19 people to contribute fully to their role when they're on the pitch.

"It's been somewhere where, as coaches, we've had to really check and challenge ourselves, and try and build in things each week to keep the guys ticking over, and keep stretching the best players, but then lifting up the weaker players, so we're all on a similar level.

"It's been a good one. We just need to keep momentum going. If we can just keep momentum going up until Christmas, and not have any games called off, we'll finish this year on a real high, being up in a good position in the league."

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