We’ve always had the ability to raise our game against the top teams

13th September 2012

What do you do when you’ve lost your first two fixtures of the season and not played as well as you’d hoped? Do you wallow in self-pity, or do you dust yourself down, roll up your sleeves and plan for the next game? Well, anybody who knows Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett, will already know the answer to those questions. Geoff’s philosophy has always been to look forward and to try to improve with every game. Obviously you need to learn lessons along the way and try to correct any mistakes you spot, but essentially you need to be optimistic and generally just put in a shift.

Yes the Sedgley result wasn’t the one any supporter would have chosen, but it happened and now it’s history. The important thing is to move on and concentrate on what comes next. Unfortunately what comes next couldn’t be a much sterner test: Ealing Trailfinders come to Priory Park on Saturday. Their record so far this season speaks for itself – played 2 won 2. Yet, Macclesfield went down there last season on the back of consecutive defeats and beat them when they were flying, and drew against them at Priory Park in a thrilling match last spring. So the Blues know how to raise their game when it matters. Here Macclesfield Rugby talks to Geoff about his thoughts on last Saturday’s disappointment at Sedgley and his hopes for this weekend’s match against the Trailfinders.

The Sedgley result must have been a disappointment, but did you see anything positive in that game that you can carry into the weekend’s fixture against Ealing?

“Well, yes I can. I was disappointed, but in terms of our defence against Sedgley, I think we played a lot better. We still need to do more work on our individual tackle because it’s still letting us down. So we’ve done more work this week on ball retention because we know we’ll need to keep hold of it against Ealing. It’s been getting better, but there’s still more that needs to be done. Our set pieces I’m glad to say were much better last weekend. I’m hoping that our set pieces will fare even better this weekend if we’re lucky enough to have Alan Marsh and Will Bordill available for selection. We could do with their experience, pace and physicality.”

“What we still need to work on also is our concentration levels. We need to stay switched on for the whole match, and stop giving silly tries away. Every team in this competitive league will concede tries against the opposition. All you want to ensure is that you make the opposition work for those tries and opportunities. The last thing you want to do is hand them tries on a plate. So it’s imperative that we stop shooting ourselves in the foot and gifting any team points they haven’t necessarily had to work for.”

“We’ve had 5 forwards unavailable at the start of this season and that’s made life difficult. Whether you choose to see that as an excuse or not, it’s still a fact: all out injuries have come at once.  So we’ve had to introduce some of our newer players perhaps slightly earlier than we would have done had circumstances been different. But it’s credit to these players that they’ve stepped up and performed. Things will only continue to get better with more game time, and when the more experienced players start to return they will learn from them and improve further.”

So what are you expecting from Ealing? Will they pose different challenges than Sedgley?

“Well I’d have to say that Ealing and Sedgley are two completely different prospects. Sedgley are a good team and taught us a lesson: we if we don’t stay focused, we’ll get punished.  Ealing though pose different challenges. They’re a quality team with the potential to really threaten the opposition all over the park.  They’ve got very good players and many strengths and talents that we need to be acutely aware of. We played well against them last year beating them down there and drawing a thrilling game here at Priory Park, We know what a good team they are, but we’ve always had the ability to raise our game against the top teams.”

“We’ll need to be able to defend across the full width of the pitch, and we do need to ensure that we keep the game tight, because Ben Ward, their fly half, has got a good touch and a great understanding with both his wingers. He plays very flat and is able to spot space quickly when opposition wingers get drawn in: with his diagonal kicking he’s able to exploit the space and punish teams. They score a lot of tries that way, so we need to be extremely careful.”

“We’re in doubt that we’ll have our work cut out against the team who are favourites to win the league this year, but we’re determined to improve on our early indifferent form and get our season properly underway at the weekend.”