It was billed as the crunch match: some even referred to it as the defining game of the season. Whether any of those predictions prove to be correct will not be clear until the end of the season, but what can be said with certainty is that the result was a bitter blow for Macclesfield Blues. Coming away from Wharfeside Avenue without any points was disappointing, and puts Macclesfield Rugby Club firmly in the relegation battle.
You’d think that after such a loss Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett, would be bitterly disappointed. Well, you’d be right – he was. Yet he could also see many positives in the performance. On any other given day Macclesfield Blues would’ve taken one or two of the many chances they created and come away with a win. But that’s all history now. What’s important is the future, or more particularly the final 3 games of the season. Macclesfield Blues need to secure as many points as possible before then, and it’s Geoff’s job to make sure that happens. Here’s what Geoff had to say about the disappointment at Wharfedale and the upcoming fixture against Old Albanians.
Have you come to terms with the weekend’s result yet?
“Oh I’m beginning to get over it, but I’m still very disappointed. What makes it more disappointing is that we set off rather well, and looked good. But losing Tom Eaton after 5 minutes was a bitter bow and changed the match. Tom’s the game manager and he knows how to play to our strengths, so we were always going to struggle when he went off. What compounded the problem is that I’d brought in George Drury at scrum half. George is a delightful player with real potential, but he’s still learning his craft. What was important, and what we’d trained for all week was for George to be encouraged, nudged and advised by Tom. When Tom went off it not only weakened the team; it weakened George’s game too. We had 2 fine scrum halves at half back, but no real game management. Whilst we continued to win possession, we lost our way a little and couldn’t manage to do anything with it.”
“Saying all of that, we still played well. We were held up over the line 5 times. On another day we would’ve been awarded those scores, but the referee was very indecisive. The lads were very disappointed with some of the calls. Josh Fowles was adjudged to have touched the line just prior to scoring 2 tries wide out on the right. We had lots of chances, but we couldn’t turn those into scores. Our defence was also tidy, and didn’t really give Wharfedale much of a sniff. They only scored 3 penalties, a drop goal and a penalty try, so they were never able to carry the ball over our line.”
“Overall, whilst we’re disappointed with the result, the performance was much better than the result merited. To be fair to Wharfedale they were tremendous. They tackled and cover-tackled, and were very strong defensively. So you have to give them credit.”
What did you say to the boys after the final whistle?
“The point I made to the lads at the end of the game was to be positive. It’s not over by any means. At this juncture we’re one place above them. They’re in a relegation position, and we aren’t. We’ve now got 3 games to collect as many points as possible. Wharfedale may have 4 games, but we can’t worry about them. For us now every point is vital. If we finish up with the same number of points as them, we’ll stay up on the number of games won. Our attitude is, and remains, it’s not all over. We may have a difficult run in, but so have Wharfedale.”
What are you expecting from Albanians?
“We were very disappointing when we played Albanians last time. We had a reasonable 20 minutes or so, and then seemed to go off the boil. We all know that we could’ve done a whole lot better. They are a very good side, but I think there’s a likelihood that if we can get into our game quickly and get stuck into them up front, we could get something out of this. We need to prevent them from getting a good supply of ball, because their backs are very good at exploiting space. Shanahan, their fly half, is an exceptional player, who has, and still could, play at a higher level. If we can prevent him from getting his hands on the ball, then we’re in with a shout. We have to be positive, focused and very busy, and hope that this time the luck is with us, unlike last weekend.”