Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett, had urged his Macclesfield Blues team to get back on the horse and avenge the defeat by Sedgley Park, and that’s exactly what they did at the weekend. They won comfortably down at Bromsgrove with a bonus point and kept up the pressure on table-topping Darlington. Next up at Priory Park are local rivals Chester. Last time the teams met the outcome hung on the last kick of the game when Macclesfield Blues narrowly won 15-14. This time Geoff is looking for a slightly more convincing victory. He knows his team are in for a fight, but he’s confident that the Blues have the skills and determination to emerge victorious. He are Geoff’s thoughts on what the Priory Park supporters can expect.
Was it good getting back on the horse?
“Yes I’m pleased to say we’re back to winning ways. It was a very good performance on what was not a very nice day. The pitch was heavy and the wind was blowing a gale and yet we still managed to score 8 tries and come home with the bonus point. For us it’s now a matter of keeping that momentum going when we play Chester at the weekend.”
What are you expecting from Chester?
“Chester will be tough opponents – we know that much. They provided a stern test when we played them at their place, and pushed us all the way. I said at the time they were as good a side as we’d played. They competed for every ball and were very physical and committed. That was probably their biggest test at the time we played them and they raised their game accordingly. I think things have changed since then, and I’m not sure they’re quite the threat they were. Nevertheless we have to be at our best on Saturday and retain our concentration for the full 80 minutes if we want to take maximum points.”
How will the Blues approach the game?
“We know what we have to do, and we know how to do it. All we need to do is improve our home form. I find it fascinating that we struggle at home at the moment – well, maybe fascinating isn’t the right word: perhaps alarming is more appropriate. For some reason or other we’re far more comfortable playing away than we are at home. Why is that the case? Well, I don’t know really: it’s certainly not the pitch. It’s easy to make the statement, but a whole lot harder to explain it. What we have to do is get that monkey off our backs and perform on Saturday. Hopefully then we’ll make a much better job of them than we did when we went to their place.”
Where do you think Chester’s main strengths and weaknesses lie?
“Well they’ve got a solid workmanlike pack which likes to compete. Their back division also can be lively if you give them time and space. They pushed us last time for a while, but I think they ran out of steam by half time. I know at the death they could’ve actually won the game, but none the less I thought we were the superior side. They’ve also lost a very good fly half in Rees Hayes. I think he’s out with a shoulder problem or collar bone injury. Either way they’ll miss him. He provides all the momentum in their back play, so it’ll be interesting to see how they fare without him as the fulcrum.”
“I’m not sure if Chester still carry the same sort of threat as they did earlier on in the season. They were 31 nil down at half time against Sedgley at the weekend. They eventually lost 43-10, but you have to wonder whether Sedgley switched off in the second half. We’ll hopefully be looking to impose ourselves on Chester in much the same way, but we won’t be easing off if I can help it. Bonus points are vital and will probably determine the final league position.”
So you’re confident going into the match?
“Well, yes we are confident. Without wishing to sound immodest or overconfident, there’s no reason to be anything but confident. If you look at the league table we’ve both played 19 games, but we’ve won 17 of them and are currently 20 points ahead of Chester. That’s the difference between the two teams. That’s not me talking or boasting – that’s fact. But sport is a funny old business: I doesn’t matter who’s done what, what matters is how you perform on the day. If we play like we did last weekend and keep our focus I think we should be too strong for them.”