What sort of reaction would you expect to get from a manager of a team that’s just lost for the third consecutive game? Well, obviously they would be disappointed, naturally, but they would also be determined to put the matter right in the next game. Well, that’s how Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett was today when Macclesfield Rugby managed to catch up with him, yet he remained surprisingly philosophical about the heavy home loss at Priory Park against league leaders.
He believes the game was much closer than the score would suggest, for the first half at least. It was only when Ealing upped the pace and physicality after the break that the game slipped away from Macclesfield Blues. So what now for the team? Is it back to the drawing board or time for plan B? Most definitely not. Geoff’s philosophy is that you continue to do the things you do well and improve on the things you don’t do well enough. In the meantime you get on with enjoying your rugby, after all that’s what it’s all about. And you certainly don’t start beating yourself up. You can’t change what’s happened; so the trick is to look forward.
How are you feeling after the heavy loss at the weekend against Ealing?
“Well I’m certainly disappointed as you would expect, but I’ve other things on mind at the moment. Our woes have just been increased by the news I received earlier on this morning. I’ve just had confirmation that Jack Moorhouse broke his jaw last night in training. He took himself off to hospital and was kept in overnight. The medics are now trying to decide whether to wire it together or not. The poor lad’s also lost some back teeth and will be out for at least 6 weeks.”
“We’ve also got concerns about Jack Scott-Sugden. He came off on Saturday with what I thought was an ankle injury and a hamstring strain. It now turns out that the hamstring problem is the more serious of the two injuries. Whether he’ll be fit enough to play down at Cinderford remains to be seen? We’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that intensive treatment this week will help to fix the problem. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Well back to the match: after a closely-contested first half Ealing went on to dominate possession and took charge. What do you think changed the course of the game?
“I thought in the first half we were very competitive and were unlucky to go in behind. We’d played well and fronted up, even though we were still a bit careless and gave the ball away too much for my liking. We had a good share of possession and looked effective with ball in hand. When we reached the break I still felt the game was still there to be won. But when the teams came out for the second half Ealing just upped the ante and we couldn’t live with it.”
“Ealing are a very good side, make no mistake. They were accurate and effective right across the field from 1 to 15. They had a mixture of pace and accuracy which we simply couldn’t cope with. In the 10 minutes after half time they put everything together and they blew us away.”
You said last week that you were aware of the threat the Ealing backline posed, were you at all surprised by the strength of their forward pack?
“I don’t know whether you’d call it surprised as such. I was aware that they’d stiffened up their pack and brought in 3 or 4 new players to add some grunt. Perhaps what was slightly surprising was just how aggressive these new players were. Ealing were more aggressive and fired up than I’ve seen them before. Having said that we were still able to keep hold of most of our own set piece ball, but they had an added physicality in the pack this year that they hadn’t last season.”
What positives can you take from that performance as you head down to Cinderford this weekend?
“What we have to do is keep on working on our game and our concentration levels, and I can tell you we are working jolly hard on both ball retention and defence. Mind you, it’s not difficult to keep the mind concentrated when things aren’t going right, but at the same time we have to still try to keep things fun. We mustn’t be too critical, and we certainly shouldn’t start beating ourselves up about it. Yes we analyse all the video footage and try to correct the mistakes we spot, but rugby’s about more than just winning. I think it’s vital that the players enjoy their rugby and enjoy what they’re doing, rather than focusing too much on the negatives: if you constantly beat yourself up after a loss, then the whole training process can turn into a bit of a drudge. Getting the balance right is tricky and you have to walk a very fine line to achieve it.”
Cinderford have had a solid start to the campaign, what are you expecting from them?
“Cinderford have had a decent start to the season and remain unbeaten. They’ve played 3 and won 2 with 1 match drawn. So they’re going well. They’re a very workmanlike and well-organised side. We beat them last year, but they were good hard games I can tell you. So we’re going to have to match that workmanlike quality and keep ourselves well organised if we want to come away with anything.”
“We’re going to need to stay switched on and concentrate for the whole 80 minutes, not just the 40. It will be intense of that I’ve no doubt. Their defence is tidy, though having said that they have conceded quite a few points. The only problem is they’re also scoring quite a few too. So there should be scoring opportunities available for us, but we’ll need to close them down because as things stand if a team scores 1 try, Cinderford will recover and score 2. So concentration is critical.”