It was a disappointing result down at Blackheath, but in many ways it wasn’t entirely unexpected. Blackheath were also a top six team, and had recently been on a good run of form. Macclesfield Blues’ small squad had been stretched to breaking point, which meant that many of the players who were overdue a much-deserved rest, had no other choice but to play. Still, in spite of this handicap, the Blues still managed to put in a creditable performance and come away with a try scoring losing bonus point. We were fortunate to catch up with Geoff Wappett this week ahead of the weekend’s game against Ealing. Our Head Coach and Director of Rugby was disappointed by last weekend’s result, bur remains philosophical whilst he contemplates the run in and the tough fixtures that still await the Blues. Here Geoff talks about determination, dynamism and destiny.
So were you surprised by the result, or was it something that could’ve been predicted?
“Yes the result wasn’t what we would’ve wanted, but it was understandable. Besides, there were positives to take out of the game. We were particularly disappointing in the first 20 to 25 minutes. We got off to a slow start and Blackheath came at us full tilt. We took a bit of a roasting. Blackheath put real pace into the game, and we struggled to deal with it. Because of that we were 21-3 down in next to no time. It was obviously a big blow, but you have to look for the positives as well.”
“With Sam Moss being missing, we’ve not had a proper hooker or suitable replacement available for some time. So it’s not really all that surprising that our set piece didn’t function too well. When we’ve got all personnel available our scrummage and line out can compete with the best. So, we struggled up front, and that was only made worse with the two yellow cards in the second half. You can’t compete against a side as good as Blackheath with 13 men. During the 10 minutes they were off the field, we were punished. Yet, in spite of all the things that went wrong, we were still able to score 4 tries. So, yes a bad result, but it’s not all doom and gloom.”
What overall impression did the game have on you?
“I thought Ed Stobart had a particularly good game. He was really vibrant. The harder ground obviously suited Blackheath’s speedy backline, but it also suited Ed too. He looked really impressive, as did Frankie Barker who deserved his late try that gave us the try scoring bonus point. But, if there was one overriding impression I felt after the game, it’s that I thought we looked tired. We’ve only got a small squad. Those that have managed to play in most games had probably played too much. Let’s face it a 30 game league is a very big league when you haven’t got the biggest squad. That only gets exacerbated by injuries, and as you reach this end of the season, the toll really starts to show. It’s even more noticeable as the ground firms up and the game gets even quicker. We looked a bit pushed, so we’ll try to combat that by having a light week’s training, with nothing too taxing or strenuous. Obviously we’ll try to address the things that went wrong, but we don’t want to compound any problems.”
Are you looking forward to the visit of Ealing Trailfinders?
“It’s just unfortunate that we’ve got Ealing next. I know it’s just the strange quirks of the fixture lists, but it doesn’t get any easier, does it? We’ve now got to face not just Ealing who are second in the league, but then Jersey too, the league leaders. It’s going to be tough, but we have to remember that we went down to their place and beat them fair and square. Obviously they’ve been able to strengthen their midfield at Cambridge’s expense by signing Tom Wheatcroft, who’s a very accomplished centre. So their gifted back division is now even stronger. We’ll be looking to get at them though. We won down there because of our forwards. If we can get our new hooker, Dave Blackwell, on the park and hopefully get Sam Moss back on the bench, then I think our set piece strength will be evident again. Hopefully we’ll be able to get them both involved at some stage.”
Are you content settling for the current league position, or do you think Macclesfield might yet have a hand in determining who ultimately wins the league?
“We’re in a comfortable position now, lying in 6th. Admittedly we’d have liked to be higher, but it’s just not worked out as predicted. We’re playing for pride now, whereas Ealing are playing for position. They’re currently second in the league just 4 points behind Jersey. If Jersey slip up and Ealing keep on winning, then that will confound everyone who’s been saying the league was sown up months ago. Ealing need to win to keep the pressure on, so every game from now until the end of the season will be like a cup final for them. They’ll be highly motivated, so we’ll need to be well prepared. Ealing will be hoping that some team will trip Jersey up before the end of the season. Hopefully that will be us. When you think about it Macclesfield are in quite a dynamic position: we have the power to be king makers. If we beat Ealing, we might well hand the title to Jersey. If we lose to Ealing, but beat Jersey, we might just send the title the other way. It’s an interesting position to be in.”