If the hope of all Macclesfield Blues supporters was to sign off the first half of the season in style last weekend, then their wishes were definitely granted. Macclesfield Blues put in a stellar performance at Priory Park, putting 33 unanswered points on visitors Sale FC before half time. That in itself was no mean feat as Sale are a quality side. They’d just beaten third place Stourbridge after all. Still if Sale had travelled to Priory Park hoping for a victory, then they were to be disappointed. Despite a spirited second half come back, Sale were no match for the table-topping Blues.
Macclesfield were both lethal in attack and resolute in defence, but head coach, Giles Heagerty, knows the players will need to call on these qualities during the second half of the season. The problem is when you’re at the top of the tree; you’re there to be shot at. If Macclesfield Blues thought the last 4 months have been tough, then they’re in for a shock: things are only going to get tougher in Giles’ opinion.
Do you think the Sale FC performance was a fitting way to end the Blues’ half-season campaign?
“Certainly it was a good way to end the first half of the season. The performance was good, particularly during the first 40 minutes. Our attack was ruthless. Still that, in itself, caused a few headaches too. You get frustrated when you’re playing so well, but still make errors and waste chances. That’s probably nit-picking really, because we only made those chances because the players were brave enough to try things.So I’m certainly not going to criticise players for doing that.”
“We were also very good defensively in the second half too, and that was gratifying as it’s something we’ve been working on for the last few months. Sale came back at us in the second half and showed what a good side they are. They’re very well organised and can, given the chance, play some great rugby.”
What changed in the second half?
“Well, I think Sale were maybe given a talking to at half time and came back out with a different attitude. Maybe we also switched off a little, which is understandable. I certainly don’t think we showed any signs of complacency, but when you end the half 33 points to nil up, it’s then very difficult for all 15 players to stay fully engaged. As soon as Sale scored the game changed, and we were forced to dig deep and defend well. We did that very well indeed, and that ability – that resilience – is certainly what we’ll need in the second half of the season.
What lessons would you say you’ve earned during the first 4 months of the season?
“I’m not sure really. I guess I’ve learned that losing can be a useful exercise: you might even say beneficial in some circumstances. That’s not to say I enjoy losing, because that just isn’t the case. I hate losing. Still losing against Stourbridge, and even the loss against Sedgley, were very valuable lessons to us as a group.”
“I’ve also learned that when you’re at the top, everybody brings their A game. Now obviously you kind of expect that, but when you actually witness it week-in week-out it changes your ideas. It’s tough and it’s grinding, but if you want to stay at the top that’s what you’ve got to deal with. What I have learned about this group is that they are all mentally very resilient. We’re going to need that resilience in spades in the second half of the season because every team will be looking to knock us off our perch. We’re now in a pretty good place. The boys have bought into the philosophy that we’ve been trying to introduce this season, and their task will be to carry on applying that philosophy over the next 4 months or so.”
Have any of the players surprised you over the last few months?
“No I wouldn’t say in general terms that anything’s surprised me. I knew my players and I knew what sort of qualities they had. I suppose the only thing that has slightly surprised me is that it’s not just the senior players who have stepped up and taken responsibility. All the players have at some stage or other stepped up and contributed.”
“Obviously we have a leadership group on and off the field; by that I mean the senior players who have experience. You’d expect players from this group to take responsibility and to lead from the front. But I’ve found that every week other less experienced players also tend to step up to the plate too. They’ll either do something on the field or say something at the right time which inspires the other players in some capacity.”
“Charlie Venables is the perfect example of this. He never generally says anything; but the performance he put I last weekend was immense. That performance was a catalyst and an inspiration for the other players. He didn’t manage to join us for pre-season and he started the main season late, but his stellar performance at the weekend kick-started our finest performance this season so far. What pleases me most is that I know there will be others who will do exactly the same during the second half of the campaign.”