22nd November 2016

To lose to a team sitting comfortably in the upper echelons of the table is no disgrace: to lose in the last minute after a sending off and the award of a penalty try is gutting. That was Macclesfield Blues’ experience at Priory Park last weekend. The Blues thoroughly deserved their lead over Birmingham Mosely after putting on one the finest defensive displays Priory Park has seen for some time, only to lose the game in the last minute. Although that blow was a bitter and disappointing one, Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, refused to dwell on the result. He took the positives from the performance, of which there were many, and set about the task of preparing the boys for next week’s trip down to the south west to face third place Plymouth Albion. Here’s what Giles had to say.

It may have been very disappointing to lose that game in the last minute, but you must be incredibly proud of the players and their performance

“I was hugely proud of them and the defensive shift they put in on Saturday. I’ve now seen the data on the game, and note that we only had 29 per cent possession throughout the game, so that really puts that defensive performance into context. Before the game I told the boys we were unlikely to get too many opportunities, so we had to be patient and take any chances when they arose. Sure enough we got two scoring opportunities and we took them, then we scored from a penalty opportunity. They deserve a big pat on the back for that too.”

Was the sending off in the 79th minute justified in your opinion?

“It’s difficult to say whether it was justified or not as I’m still unclear why he was penalised. There was confusion between what the referee and the assistant referee was saying, so I’m still not sure what the first card or second card were for. It’s possible we were penalised for going in the side: we were under pressure following a decent line break. When you’re under the cosh with one minute to go, you defend with your life. Josh made a decision, and we back him on that as he was trying to help the team out.”

Do you think the team could’ve held out with 15 men on the field?

“No, I doubt it. I can’t tell you why the penalty try was given. I know the scrum was reset once because both props lost their footing on the wet ground. When the scrum was reset, the referee went under the sticks. We weren’t underpowered as we’d moved a centre onto the flanks, so I don’t think it made any difference in that respect. All we know is the referee made a decision after he saw something he didn’t like. I don’t know what that was, and he’s not told us what it was, so we just have to accept it.”

“It was a disappointing end to a great game, but as I said to the players at the end they should take heart from that performance as it’s only little things that are costing us – nothing major – little things like giving away silly penalties or being penalised for a crooked feed at the scrum; though in fairness I don’t think I saw one straight feed all game. It was a great performance overall, but also a timely reminder that we have to pay attention to detail for the whole 80 minutes if we want to win games in future.”

Do you think you’ll need an equally strong defensive performance at Plymouth this weekend?

“Plymouth are going well this season, and are a formidable side at home. They’ve got a lot of experienced heads in their team with considerable Championship pedigree, so we know we face a challenge. We’ve just got to turn up and play our own game. We’ve obviously got to do a few things better than we did last weekend, but other than that it’s almost the same again. We’ve got to make sure our defensive intensity is good, we’ve got to ensure our attention to detail is a little better in both attack and defence and we’ve got to take any scoring opportunities that come our way.”

How do the team prepare for and cope with such a long journey?  

“It is a long way to travel, but on a fair day with reasonable traffic it can be done in 4.30 hours. We’ve made a decision about how we’re going to deal with the travel. The boys are leaving early so that we arrive at the ground in plenty of time. Once we’ve played the game we’ll travel back on the coach and have a bit of craic. I’ve arranged a fancy dress theme for the return journey so that the boys can relax and enjoy themselves on the long journey back home.”