Any supporter who made their way to Priory Park last weekend will obviously have left the Richmond match disappointed and perplexed. They were satisfied with at least getting the bonus point, but were probably wondering how Macclesfield Blues managed to lose a match in which they were territorially dominant. It also puzzled Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett. The Blues bossed the play for much of the game, and only really came under pressure at the set piece. In most of other games the team have played this season that wouldn’t have been a problem, but for some reason against Richmond the set piece looked fragile. Why? Well, that’s a question Geoff and the coaching team are still mulling over. Here are Geoff’s thoughts about the Richmond game and the upcoming local derby at North West rivals Fylde at the weekend.
Saturday’s result must’ve have surprised you, given the amount of possession the Blues had?
“I’d say. The comfort is that at least we managed to get a bonus point out of it, but in truth it was a strange old game in many ways. We had pretty much most of the possession throughout the game, but couldn’t manage to take our chances or press home our advantage. In the first half it looked like we’d made a decent start, though we lost Will Bordell with a bad head knock which didn’t help the cause. Our approach work was decent, but we’d reach a particular point time and time again where we’d turn over the ball. It all became a bit repetitious. 7 phases; lose the ball – start again – 7 phases; lose the ball.”
“When they finished up winning a line out on our 22, I wasn’t unduly worried as I thought we’d manage to steal the ball back as we’d done throughout the game. But for some reason we failed to deal with it, and blow me they drove us over the line. It was careless, and what was even more careless is that we allowed them to do it again later on. So they finished up with 2 tries, having only been in our half 3 times.”
“When we managed to get 2 good tries of our own and bring the score back to 12 all at half time, I thought we’re definitely in with a chance now. As long as we were more careful and avoided their line out drives, I thought we’d be OK. For some reason we chose to kick off the second half short, so we were immediately at a disadvantage. Our scrum has been pretty decent this season so far, but for one reason or another it just disintegrated against Richmond. It was this fragility that cost us in the end. Richmond had about 3 or 4 scrummages in rapid succession, and blow me we ended up conceding a penalty try.”
Do you think that was a harsh call, or maybe called too early?
“I think it was bit of a harsh call in truth, but you have to play to the referee. Still at 19-12 down I still believed we could get something out of the game. We made one or two telling line breaks that were well-supported, but we kept coming up short. Maybe if the pitch was about 3 metres shorter we might have converted a lot of this good approach work and scored a few more tries. Mind you, joking aside, I thought we got a bad call from the officials.”
“Matt O’Regan made a tremendous break, and made an inside pass to Jack Moorhouse who was then felled by the last defender with a high tackle about 10 yards out. The ref gave a penalty and called us back to where the infringement took place, but you have to wonder why that wasn’t also called as a penalty try, or at least a yellow card. So we kicked the penalty, because we knew we had to score twice to win. After that we had lots more possession and several good attacking positions, but none of them could be converted into points. So naturally I’m disappointed as we had most of the game, but I’m also pleased that at least we managed to get the bonus point, as it was the least we deserved.”
So next up is the big one – away at local rivals Fylde; what are your thoughts?
“Yes it is a big one, and the one we all look forward to. Fylde have had their problems too this season. Obviously I wouldn’t say their predicament is acute compared to ours. I thought they’d have been getting better results this season, though some people would probably say the same about us no doubt. They’ve had a few disappointments and were fairly well damaged last weekend, but they’ve still got lots of pace and an awful lot of class in their starting 15. Ollie Brennand and Oli Viney are classy players and supremely talented backs. Fylde have lots of pace and creativity, so we’ll have to be on our mettle if we want to compete, let alone take anything out of the game.”
“What we’re going to need is a really good forward performance, not only to give us a platform to play, but also to stop them from playing. One of the surest ways of stopping a team like Fylde is to make sure you command as much of the possession as possible. If you can’t manage to do this, then at least you can try to make the other team’s possession poor. If we can succeed in that area and make a nuisance of ourselves, then we might be able to stop their try-scoring machines. If we manage that, then who knows? We could be in there and score a try or two of our own. Obviously it’s going to be a tough match, but in spite of some of our results this season I still travel away with confidence.”