It was fated to be potentially the trickiest game of the season, but Macclesfield Blues responded to the challenge and came away from Stourbridge with their unbeaten record intact. Mind you, it was no easy task, but then again nobody expected it to be. Stourbridge, like Macclesfield Blues, had won all their games so far this season. What’s more they were playing Stourbridge on their own turf, so the task was about as difficult as it could be. But with a combination of aggressive forward play, clever counterattacking rugby and resolute defending, Macclesfield Blues claimed a deserved victory. It now stands at 10 wins from 10. Will this fine run of form continue? Will Macclesfield Blues have the resources and determination to stay at the summit of National League 2 North? Here’s what Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett, had to say when he spoke to Macclesfield Rugby earlier this week.
A fine performance and the right result: could you have asked for more?
“Yes we definitely got the result we wanted, but we had to work for it as we expected. The first half was pretty even. We couldn’t really get our line out working as well as we would’ve liked and that reduced our effectiveness. Still we managed to sort that out at half time, and after that I think we took control of the game. Most of the second half action and field position took place in Stourbridge’s final third. We were able to exert pressure on their defence and were able to press home this advantage and score a couple of tries.”
“Having said that Stourbridge were also effective when they managed to get into our half. They were able to chip away with penalties and keep the game alive. We were always able to keep our noses in front, but when they scored their try and brought the scores to 16-19 it put us under enormous pressure. What pleased me was the way our lads responded to the challenge: the more urgency Stourbridge injected into the game towards the end, the more resilient our defence became. Nowhere could that be seen more than Edd Stobart’s match-saving tackle at the end. But overall in spite of late pressure I think we definitely deserved the win.”
What pleased you most about the performance?
“Well, it was never going to be easy. Stourbridge are obviously a good side- you don’t win all your games if you’re not, and they were playing on their home ground too. But in spite of that we were able to take control. You could argue that being away from home and playing the second best team in the league (always assuming we’re the best) that was potentially our hardest game of the season. And yet, we came through it. What’s more, had we had our first choice half back combination and not been forced to play Tom Eaton at scrum half, I think we were playing well enough to maybe have come away with a bonus point. The lads deserve a great deal of credit for that performance and can use the confidence that they will have got from that to forge ahead for the rest of the season.”
Are the lads now confident ahead of the Birmingham Solihull game?
“Well, yes confidence is high, but we still need to keep our focus. There’s no point turning in a magnificent performance at Stourbridge if we then take our eye of the ball and don’t perform this coming weekend. Solihull have shown that they have what it takes to beat teams, having won 5 games this season; so we can’t take anything for granted. What we now have to do is back up what we’ve done before. We need to keep the machine rolling and keep this winning run going. I’m pretty sure when we last won the league we put together a run of 16 unbeaten games, but I could be wrong there. Our supporters would know, so it would be good if they could do a bit of digging and tell us.”
Does winning increase the pressure on the team?
“No, I don’t think it does. Some people might argue that winning increases the pressure on the team, but I’d much rather be in that position than losing all the games. That’s where the real pressure lies. Put it this way, even if Stourbridge win all their games, as long as we match them we’ll finish up above them in the league. That’s a great position to be in – so no, I don’t call that pressure.”
Did the injury to Frankie Barker take any of the gloss off the afternoon?
“Frankie unfortunately came off after 20 minutes with a knee ligament injury. It looked like quite a bad one, and he could potentially be out for several weeks. It’s real shame because Frankie was playing really well indeed. In fact he was one of my contenders for man of the season after only 10 games – that’s how well he was playing. All we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.”
“On a more positive note I’ve signed a new scrum half called Joe Murray. Joe’s a young lad who played at the Wirral and for Cheshire. We’ll probably give him a little game time on Saturday towards the end of the half to ease him in gently, but he’s very promising. Because Tom was forced to play at 9 on Saturday because of injuries to Chris Townsend and George Baxter, our performance was a little unbalanced. We played a little too narrow for my liking, but hopefully that will improve when Tom goes back to his normal fly half role and Tom Davenport returns to his role at inside centre. Joe’s presence will also increase competition for places at scrum half and that has to be a good thing in the longer term.”