So that’s the first hurdle of the end-of-season run in dealt with: a comfortably victory away at Paton Field. Perhaps the margin of victory could have been more emphatic on another day, but the 5 points were secured and that’s what really mattered. Next up at Priory Park are visitors Luctonians. Their record this season is far from convincing, having lost as many games as they’ve won. Macclesfield Blues comfortably beat Luctonians earlier this season, but as Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett knows, there’s no such thing as a guaranteed result in this league. Form has a habit of going out the window when the team crosses the whitewash: any team in National League 2 North is capable of beating their opposition on any given day. So there is no room for complacency. If Macclesfield Blues want to retain their position as leaders of National League 2 North, no result other than a 4 try bonus point victory will suffice. Here are Geoff’s thoughts ahead of the game.
One game down, three more to go: were you happy with the result and performance over on the Wirral last weekend?
“Well, I suppose I was happy enough that we got the win and the bonus point, but it was a bit of an inconsistent performance. It reminded me of the Otley game; the only difference being it took slightly longer to get the 4 tries. Once we got the bonus point after 35 minutes the game was pretty much done and dusted, but after a good 10 minute spell early on in the second half, we lost our edge and let Caldy back into the game.”
“We wasted a lot of opportunities and that’s a concern. In fairness to Caldy they did step up and made a real fight of it. We gave them a couple of soft tries, but they also scored a couple of really good ones. The inconsistency in our performance does trouble me a little. When you look at it objectively we lost the second half, as although we both scored the same number of tries, Caldy managed to convert all their place kicks. In the final 3 games of the season we’ll need to be sharper, more focused and keep our concentration for the whole 80 minutes. When we’re playing at full tilt we look really masterful, and that’s the type of momentum we have to take into April if we want to finish top.”
I guess you’ll want that level of consistency this weekend when Luctonians visit Priory Park: what are you expecting?
We’ll need to be at our sharpest I suspect. We may have beaten Luctonians comfortably earlier this season, but we can’t take that game as any sort of yardstick. They may have had a bad day, or we may have had a really good day- it’s difficult to tell. All I would say is that when they played Stourbridge they made them work for the points. Yes, Stourbridge may have scored 4 tries against them, but they only won the game by 10 points in the end.”
“Luctonians will be no pushover, and they’ll fight for every scrap of possession. So we’ll need to be sharp and focused and use all our attacking resources to get a result. Logic would probably say we’re favourites, but you know my thoughts about logic and sport. Everything goes out the window on match days, and all you can do is try to ensure you play to your strengths and limit the opportunities for your opposition. The pressure is definitely on us, as it has been all season, but we need to set that aside and focus on getting the 5 points. What we can’t afford to do is to look ahead too much. What’s important is to focus on the game in hand. So we’ll be taking it one game at a time.”
Has Stourbridge’s win against Darlington last weekend changed how you’ll approach this season’s final games?
“I don’t think the situation is any different even though Darlington lost. Darlington are currently 9 points behind us, but they’ve got the Sheffield game in hand. If they win that game with a bonus point then both they and Stourbridge are 4 points adrift of Macclesfield. If you assume they’ll win the other 2 fixtures with bonus points, which looks likely, then it all hinges on the final game of the season when we play up at Darlington. At the end of the day we might look most likely to take the title, but you can’t take anything for granted. If the results go in a certain way all 3 teams could end up on the same number of points and Macclesfield could theoretically finish third because of an inferior points difference. What it all boils down to is this simple fact: if we want to guarantee that we finish as champions then we have to beat Darlington Mowden Park.”