Anyone looking at the scoreline from Saturday’s game at Fylde is probably thinking it was an easy game for the home team, and pretty much one way traffic. Had you been at the game, of course, you would’ve come away with a different opinion. Fylde were worthy winners, make no mistake: they scored more points and got the winning bonus point. But things could’ve been so different. Macclesfield Blues were still very much in the game with 10 minutes to go, and on another day Josh Fowles could’ve scored the try that brought the 4 try bonus point and maybe won the game. Still, hindsight’s cheap: there’s no point talking about ifs and maybes. The fact is that Macclesfield couldn’t secure that final try and had to force the game. The result is that they then ended up handing Fylde the victory on a plate. Director of Rugby and Head Coach, Geoff Wappett, was understandably disappointed by the result, but was still able to see a couple of positives in the game in spite of the result. He was pleased with the Blues ability to shift the ball wide at pace when defences got narrow, and delighted to see the successful return of Matt O’Reagan. What he was perhaps not as delighted with was the team’s naivety in chasing the game when the losing bonus point was all but secured. Here Geoff talks to Macclesfield Rugby about pride, passion and pragmatism.
How were you left feeling after a game that could’ve ended so differently?
“Well I was proud of the team and approved of the passion and commitment they showed throughout the match, but I was very disappointed at the end of the day. I can’t really say we lost the game in the first half, because I thought we dominated the first 40 minutes. But things happened in the first half that possibly determined the final outcome. The problem was that we perhaps didn’t score as many points as we should’ve done. We got a lot of ball in the right places on the field and were very much on top. We just didn’t convert as many of the chances as we should’ve done. If we’d done that we’d have been further ahead than 16 points at the interval and could maybe have put the game to bed.”
So what happened in the final quarter of the game – what went wrong?
“I looked at the clock and saw we had 9 minutes to go. The score was then 29 – 23 to Fylde. Josh Fowles arguably should’ve scored then. He took the ball on the flank and didn’t come back in field far enough and unfortunately put a foot into touch. Had he managed to come inside the defender in their 22, then the posts were open to him. That would’ve put a completely different complexion on the game. After that we went a bit silly and started chasing the game. In an effort to try and rescue the game, we ended up giving cheap points away. It’s easy to be wise after the event, but we must learn from this: we’ve got to learn to be pragmatic and protect what we have. If a team reaches the point where they realise that they might not win the game, then you have to try to retain the losing bonus point you’ve already got. There’s no point chasing that elusive try on their 5 metre line, if you give the ball away cheaply and let Ollie Brennand race the length of the field to score at the other end. On another day we may have scored the fourth try, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
So taking the game as a whole, what were your impressions of Macclesfield and Fylde respectively?
“Obviously I was deeply disappointed, but more with the final outcome rather than the game as a whole. We played well in the first half, even if we didn’t score enough points. We even started the second half well and went even further ahead, then we just lost our confidence and concentration. Our game management in the last quarter let us down. Hopefully, we will learn from that experience and take that into the rest of our games.”
“Having said that, I have to be fair to Fylde and say that they did play well. They are a very good side, and if you want to beat them then you have to try to be an even better side. Fylde’s back 3 are wonderfully talented footballers and will cause any side problems. The final scoreline was flattering to them. I don’t think it was a 48 -23 game in my opinion, more a 25-23 I think. I just thought it was a game we could’ve won on another day. Still, I would say that, wouldn’t I?”
What positives stood out for you in spite of the loss?
“If there were positives to take from the game it was the return of Matt O’Reagan, and the fact that we showed our ability to move the ball out wide at pace and score. Considering Matt had been out with injury and illness for all of this year, I thought he had an outstanding game and I’m absolutely delighted for him. You could see in the intensity of his training that he was ready for this match. It’s a real positive to have him back in the team again.”
What thoughts do you have about the visit of Birmingham Solihull to Priory Park on Friday under the lights for the first time?
“Birmingham Solihull are a funny Club really, in the nicest possible way of course. At one stage you would’ve had them down as possible relegation contenders, but they’ve turned their season round and won their last 3 games on the bounce and played some really good stuff. Don’t forget they beat us down there too, albeit narrowly. We need to go into the game in a positive frame of mind. In many ways I’m hoping this will suit us better. I think we’re probably at our weakest when we think we should win a game easily. Now there’s no way any sensible person would approach Friday night’s game thinking that we will easily win: they’ve won their last few games, they’ve played well and beat us last time. We lost our last two games. You’d have to be pretty foolish to approach Friday night’s game without being fired up and switched on. These factors will hopefully focus my team’s mind.”