Harrogate match preview

17th February 2014

All in all last weekend proved to be a good one for Macclesfield Blues. They travelled down to Dudley Kingswinford, braving the inclement weather and some inconsistent refereeing decisions and still managed to come away with a bonus point win. That puts the Blues neck and neck with fellow title contenders, Darlington Mowden Park, whose game was postponed. Stourbridge are currently in pole position, but they have played one game more than both Macclesfield Blues and Darlington. Next up for the Blues is a weekend trip up to Harrogate in the re-arranged fixture following the postponement earlier this month. Hopefully the Blues will continue their good run of form and come away with another convincing win. Are the Blues confident ahead of the game? Well, here’s what Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett, told Macclesfield Rugby this week.

Has the earlier postponement changed the way the team will approach this game?

“No it’s not changed our game plan or tactics in any way. We’ll approach the game in exactly the same way as we would’ve done 2 weeks ago. Now of course the weather may yet have some part to play, but we’ll be going into the match with the same type of mentality – that is, looking for a good performance and looking for a precious 5 points. We have to do that every week as we know both Stourbridge and Darlington will approach their games in the same way. There’s no room for complacency at this stage of the season.  If you aren’t completely on your game you can slip up. We’ll travel there knowing that we’ll have to work hard to come away with all the points, but we’ll be travelling confident in the fact that we’re playing well at the moment.”

A win at the weekend could take you back to the top of the league – is that thought weighing on your mind?

“I don’t really think about things like that. Our approach is simply to take one game at a time. We know that the league will be contested by just 3 teams barring a disaster. Whether we win at the weekend or not – the league positions won’t be settled then. I’m pretty certain the title race will go down to the wire, so what’s important is that we play well and play consistently in every game we take part in. Stourbridge and Darlington will be doing their best to make sure there are no slip ups, and so will we.”

The Blues form is better now than when you last played Harrogate: does that inspire confidence?

“I suppose it does, but form can go out of the window as we know. It’s what happens on the day that matters. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago we can’t really learn too much from our last game against Harrogate, as we were going through a difficult period at that time.  We may have been scoring freely then, but we were also giving points away cheaply. It was a frustrating day, because I thought we were the much better side. However, our mistakes kept them in the game. Fair play to Harrogate for exploiting those opportunities, but we won’t be quite so generous this time round.”

“Any defensive frailties we might have had have now been addressed. You saw that in our performances against Bromsgrove, Chester, Leicester Lions and Dudley recently: we don’t concede too many points these days, but are still very effective in attack. All the work we’ve done on our defence has paid dividends.  Our forwards are in a dominant mood at the moment and I’d match our pack against anybody at the present time. We know the weather probably won’t make playing easily, but we’ve shown over the last 4 weeks that we have the game to cope with these difficult conditions.”

What sort of challenges are you expecting Harrogate to pose?

“Well, as the home team they’ll be out to make it as difficult as possible for us. We know we’ll be tested. But in training we’ll be concentrating on our own game – not theirs. We only meet twice a week, so we need to use that limited contact time concentrating on being more effective in our own game and addressing any weaknesses.”

Do the Blues feel confident?

“Yes we’re confident: confident in the way we are playing and confident in our own abilities. But however confident you might be, there are no guarantees in sport? The last time we played Harrogate in the year we won the league and only lost 2 or 3 matches, we went up there confidently and finished up losing 25-24, when Ross Winney’s conversion attempt was charged down 5 yards from the touch line. Rugby can be like that.”