7th March 2017

Any hopes of a much-needed win at the Northern Echo Arena were quashed in 7 second-half last weekend. Macclesfield Blues had put in a combative performance against Darlington Mowden Park for 40 minutes, but 2 early mistakes in the second half – a turnover and an interception – and it was effectively game over. Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, will be hoping that history does not repeat itself this weekend when Macclesfield Blues take on Loughborough Students at Priory Park. He had set his players one simple task for the weekend; and that’s for every player to try to make one better decision. If they can do that, then he firmly believes the Blues will hopefully start to control games better. Here’s what Giles had to say:

Good scrum, strong maul, but unable to deal with Mowden Park’s pace: is that an accurate summary of last Saturday’s game?

“I’d say that’s a pretty accurate reflection of the game. We certainly had parity at the scrum, if not more so, and our maul was very good. Darlington definitely had an enormous amount of pace out wide, though we knew that’s what we were likely to face going into the game.”

“They were also very competitive at the breakdown, and I think that was what differentiated the two sides. They were able to control the speed of our ball; we weren’t as effective as we could’ve been at break controlling the speed of theirs. That meant it was always difficult for the boys to get organised to deal with Mowden Park’s pace and threat out wide. Having said that, we still missed 28 tackles, so we let ourselves down there. It’s easy to make excuses, but at the end of the day you just have to concede that we weren’t as good as they were.”

Were there any aspects of Saturday’s performance that pleased you?

“Yes, particularly early on. In the first half I thought we were excellent. Our defensive intensity and our work at the breakdown was very pleasing. It was something we’d talked about before the game, and because of that detailed preparation we were able to go out and really take the game to them. We managed to force 11 defensive errors, and I think that was exceptional.”

“Unfortunately, when we got ourselves into good attacking positions, we’d give away stupid and unnecessary penalties. Once you’ve done that you find yourselves straight back down the other end of the field and under the pump. Still we went in at half time 15 -5 down but feeling positive. That feeling was still there when we came out for the second half, but we then made a couple of silly defensive errors in the first 7 minutes, then that was that.”

Where you baffled by some of the referee’s decisions?

“I thought the referee was dreadful. For someone who is supposed to be on a fast-track to Premiership officiating, the performance was awful. His management of the players was poor, the way he spoke to our captain was poor, and some of the decisions by him and his fellow officials were very poor indeed. In the first half I think you can certainly say it was one rule for one team, and one rule for the other. We will certainly be asking for an explanation from the Referees’ Department.”

You’ve played well in patches in a number of games this season, but not yet managed to string together what you might call a ‘complete’ performance: is that what the Blues will need to produce this weekend in order to overcome a dangerous and pacey Loughborough side?

“Loughborough Students are a very threatening side with pace to burn. When they play at home on a dry track there are pretty near unstoppable. How dry Priory Park will be this Saturday after the deluge of rain we’ve suffered is anybody’s guess. The ground staff are working tirelessly to get the ground in shape, and I guess we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that we don’t get any more rain.”

“Loughborough are a good side, and they’re very well coached. They play some very good rugby and they are definitely a threat going forward. But Loughborough have got to have the ball to deliver that threat. Our job is stop that happening and to try and control the game so that it suits us.”

“Do we have to put in a ‘complete’ performance to achieve that? I’m not sure. The challenge we face, and I said this to the players after last Saturday’s game, is for every player to make one better decision. If they can do that then we can start to control games a little bit more. Last Saturday we had too many players making poor decisions, and that was what cost us. That can’t happen again this weekend.”