1st November 2016

Although Macclesfield Blues suffered a heavy defeat down at Woollams last weekend and now sit at the foot on National League 1, they have a chance to redeem themselves this weekend and get their season back on track when Darlington Mowden Park come to Priory Park. It won’t be an easy game, but Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, knows that it’s one that needs to be won if the Blues want to turn their season around. Here’s what Giles had to say.

You mentioned last week that the Blues needed to concentrate on processes and maintain concentration if they were to get any traction in the league: did the team fail to deliver, or were Old Albanian just the better side on the day?

“I think Old Albanian deserve a lot of credit for scoring that number of points. They were very clinical and deserved their victory. However, we made their task much easier than it should’ve been. The number of times we turned the ball over softly and the number of times that we gifted them opportunities through either poor tackling or poor organisation, made the task much too easy for them.”

“The positive thing from my perspective is that we didn’t capitulate even when the game was effectively over, and that was a great improvement on the previous week. It’s fair to say that we probably didn’t stick to the processes we’d been working on in training, so more work is definitely needed there.”

Given the team’s current league position, what needs to change to turn the season around? Do the Blues need to play a different style of rugby? 

“No, I don’t think so really. We’re scoring on average around 20 points each game, so I don’t think we need to change our playing style. We can definitely score tries, but our defence is letting us down. We’ve conceded 41 tries in 9 games, and that needs to change urgently.”

How does it need to change?

“We need to address not just our physical application on the pitch by making sure we complete our tackles, but also the way we approach defending mentally. Above all else we have to learn to treasure the ball more when we have it. We’ve been far too soft in how and when we’ve turned the ball over, and the other teams have exploited that.”

“I also think we sometimes try too hard, and I think it’s fair that we should give some credit to the players here: they’re trying desperately to make things happen, and that is leading to mistakes at the moment. I’ve said this to the players, and I’ve mentioned it to you before, that when you try to force the play and do things out of the ordinary, then you’ll invariably come unstuck.”

“The other thing we need to change is accountability. There has to be a greater focus on this, and players have to accept their responsibility for what happens on the field. We’re all accountable, and we’ve got to hold our hands up when we make mistakes.”

What targets will you be setting for the team over the next series of games?

“I think setting specific targets can be counter-productive. It’s far better in my view to take each game as it arrives. We’re fully aware of the challenges we face, not just this weekend with DMP, but also for the next 21 games. It all boils down to accountability once again. The situation we find ourselves in is entirely of our own making. What we have to do is roll up our sleeves and attack the challenge head on, because every game from now on in counts.”

The Blues have got history with Darlington Mowden Park over the last few years, would you say they’re a much better side than the one you faced in National 2?

“You’d have to say yes, as they’ve managed to maintain their National 1 status since we were promoted together a couple of seasons back. They have a strong squad that is predominantly full-time, whether they’ll admit to that or not. That affords them time to work consistently with their playing squad, and that’s a luxury many other clubs don’t have outside the Premiership and the Championship. They’re an established side with quality players, but it’s fair to say they haven’t had it all their own way in any of the seasons they’ve been in National 1; they also haven’t had it their own way in every game they’ve played against us.”

“DMP know they’ll face a challenge this weekend at Priory Park. It’s not an easy place to come to, and we’ll try our best to make their visit as difficult as possible. The primary focus for us this weekend is to concentrate on our own game, and not worry about what the opposition may or may not do. We want the players to focus solely on the tasks they’re being asked to carry out, and to use the processes we’ve been working on to make sure those tasks are properly executed.”

“We’ve suffered over the last 9 games because of a consistent lack of attention to detail. It only takes one person to make a mistake and the whole thing can come tumbling down. So I’ll be demanding that the payers execute their processes to the minutest detail this weekend. If we can do that then we can certainly make life uncomfortable for DMP.”