If you were one of the supporters who turned up to Priory Park last weekend expecting a win, you’ll no doubt have left the ground gutted. It’s a perfectly understandable reaction, but imagine how much worse it must have been for the players? Macclesfield Blues had effectively controlled the game for 70 minutes and were sitting pretty with a 5 point cushion. The win almost looked nailed-on. Now fast forward 10 minutes: you concede 2 tries and get a slightly iffy call from the officials who failed to give the advantage they called, and all you’re left with is a sense of disappointment. That’s the very definition of gutted.
Still, what’s done is done. What’s important is how you respond to setbacks and adversity. Macclesfield Blues have to pick themselves up and make the long journey northwards to the injury-racked Tynedale at the weekend. Are they confident? Well, yes they are in the opinion of Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett. They’ll travel north with a sense of belief and just hope for once this season that they get the rub of the green. Here Geoff talks to Macclesfield Rugby about the Loughborough game and the trip up to Tynedale.
The supporters left the Loughborough game disappointed, but how did you and the team feel?
“What can I say? It doesn’t get a lot worse than this, does it? You know, against Rosslyn Park we looked a pretty tidy side: they proved to be a better team than us, but at the same time we played some good rugby. We played in a similar manner against Loughborough, but for one reason or another we lost our way towards the end of the match, and it cost us. At 24 – 19 with 10 minutes to go, all we needed to do was play the game out. But for some reason we got nervous and let them back into it. Even when it went to 24 all, I would’ve been happy enough to accept the 2 points, but we tried to do something with the ball that just wasn’t on. What happened? They turned the ball over and scored, so we came away with nothing and that hurts. We used the word ‘disappointing’ a few times this year, but that result puts a whole new definition on it.”
So you feel the decision to push for the win was the wrong call: would you put that down to a lack of experience or just bad judgement?
“Well, it was probably just poor judgement I suppose, though the players did say that the referee had called advantage for a knock on, and they went for the opportunity believing play would be called back for a scrum if the advantage wasn’t forthcoming. I suppose you could call it a shot to nothing. The problem was play wasn’t called back and the ref appears to have called the advantage over. The problem was the players weren’t aware of that.”
“I can’t put it down to a lack of experience because the players involved have been around for some time. They should’ve exercised a little more caution, and played safe. Although we are playing some decent rugby, we’ve got to learn to be a bit more mature on the field and play pragmatically when the situation merits it. This lack of maturity has cost us a few scores this season, and in this case cost us the game. The problem is, and I’ve said this before, when we make a mistake or a bad call, it generally tends to be a howler and it usually results in us conceding points. We need to play pragmatically when needed, and our senior players need to start stamping their authority on games and take more responsibility.”
You lost several more players to injury at the weekend, so what’s the outlook for next weekend’s game at Tynedale?
“Oh goodness – it’s just unbelievable. It seems to be that a game can’t go by without us suffering more injuries. On Saturday we lost centre Tom Davenport after about 20 minutes with a hamstring injury. The problem is we only had one back on the bench because of the limited nature of benches at this level, so Matt Rhodes had to move from scrum half to cover Tom’s position. Then blow me within 10 minutes of that happening, Mike Finnemore, our young back row forward, suffered a really bad knee ligament injury, so he had to be replaced. Then Tom Cruise suffered a really bad shoulder injury. On top of that Jack Moorhouse picked up an ankle injury and Alan Marsh picked up a rib injury. So we came out of one game with 2 serious injuries and 3 knocks that could keep players out for the Tynedale game.”
“It’s a real tale of woe at the moment. We had 11 or 12 players out with injury last night at training. It’s now reached the stage where it’s almost impossible to cover. The problem is the injuries are occurring faster than we can cope with. There’s no immediate prospect of some of the players coming back: it’s going to be at least 4 weeks before Dean Williams can play again, and Dave Marwick will be out for a t least 4 to 5 weeks too, so that’s 2 first choice second rows out long term.”
“Chris Jones won’t be coming back as we’d hoped because he’s waiting on an operation to remove the pins from his leg. Billy Robinson is improving, and is probably a couple of weeks away from full fitness, though you have to remember that although he may be seen as a first choice tight head, he’s not played any rugby this season yet. To put the icing on the cake we’re also losing Jack Stott-Sugden: his family, unbeknown to us, have decided that they’re moving to Australia next week.”
Tynedale have had their share of injury woes too this season, so what sort of game are you expecting?
“Tynedale have got similar problems to us, and have had more than their fair share of injuries. They were well beaten at Rosslyn Park at the weekend, though I wouldn’t use that game as any sort of yardstick. I may be wrong, but the cynic in me thinks that they knew they weren’t going to get anything out of the game, so they fielded an understrength team. If that’s the case then I can understand it, as it gives their injured players another week to recover.”
“So I think we’ll see a much stronger and more competitive Tynedale team this weekend. It’s going to be a hard game up there, as ever, and we’ll have to play our best to come away with anything. They’re a tough team at home, but we travel with a sense of confidence and belief. We’re playing some good rugby: all we need now is the rub of the green. What would be nice is if we can keep our concentration for the full 80 minutes and play pragmatically if necessary. What would be even nicer would be to end the game with the same 15 players we started with, but judging by what’s happened this season so far, I’m not holding my breath about that.”