If anyone had expected a walk over last weekend, then they would’ve been sorely disappointed. Chester scrapped for every single point and forced Macclesfield Blues to dig deeper than they’ve had to so far this season. In an attritional game lacking in too many try-scoring opportunities, Macclesfield Blues emerged victorious with a narrow one point victory. But it was hard work – harder than many had expected it would be. However, that didn’t come as too much of a surprise to Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett. He told Macclesfield Rugby last week that he expecting a reaction from Chester after roundly losing to Sedgley Park. The home team certainly didn’t disappoint on that score. So what were Geoff’s thoughts after the game? Was he simply relieved that the Blues managed to keep their unblemished record, or was he thankful that his team had been pushed all the way and forced to dig into reserves that so far hadn’t been called upon? Well, we think you can probably guess.
That proved to be a tough old game: were you expecting it to be so close and so attritional?
“It was a tough old game alright: they were really up for it. There was obviously a fair bit of emotion in their game, maybe because of last week’s defeat. Whether they can summon that emotion up again – who knows? I have to say in all honesty that were clearly by far the best side we’ve played to date. They created all sorts of problems for us and made us work for every point. So, given that, I was glad we came away with four points.”
Did the closeness of the game give you any new insights about your team?
“Well, in a sense it did, because Chester forced us to work. We had to battle for everything and fight for the points. Previously I wouldn’t say the points were given to us, but we didn’t have to scrap for them in the same way. They started off pretty well, but we were our usual generous selves and gave them 7 easy points. Maybe in hindsight that was the wake-up call we needed, as it shook us up and we then started to play. It paid off after a while. The very first time we kept hold of the ball and put a few phases together we scored a try wide out on the left. That was followed by a couple of other try-scoring opportunities after keeping hold of the ball well. The only problem was when we didn’t manage to retain possession Chester came back at us. Fortunately both teams were guilty of trying to do too much with the ball too soon, so their attacks broke down. It was only when Dean Williams was yellow carded just before half time for an infringement at a ruck that they had the numerical advantage to make us pay.”
“In the second half I wouldn’t say we were absolute in our control, but I don’t think they ever really threatened us until the final penalty kick. Even when Ed Stobart was yellow carded I still think we had the bulk of possession and chances. We managed to get the score back to 14-12 without necessarily being in absolute control. It was only after Tom had converted the penalty that our forwards took control and closed the game out. Was the game how I expected it to be? Well, no, not really. Did we deserve to come away with 4 points? On balance I’d probably say we did, but it’s always the same in these types of games. If you lose by a point you’re considered to be unlucky – if you win by a point the opposite holds true. I wouldn’t agree with that – obviously.”
What lessons can the Blues learn from the Chester game?
“I think that playing in such a close game will be good for the team. Yes, it was closer than we would’ve liked, and it was hard-fought and attritional, but I think it will probably have given the team a kick up the backside. Maybe that’s what they needed. Don’t get me wrong: we didn’t play well, but we certainly didn’t play badly. The fact was Chester put us under a lot of pressure, and any mistakes we made weren’t made through a lack of concentration or effort, those mistakes were forced, by a team intent on giving everything to get a result. We had to earn our victory and fight for every bit of possession and I feel that will serve the team well in the coming months. Nothing comes easy: the best things always have to be worked for and earned. Was the game a lesson in what we’ll almost certainly face during the course of the season? Well, yes, it was, but it fortunately wasn’t a costly lesson. The best thing about it was it’s given us something clear-cut to work on this week. Our set piece wasn’t as strong as it has been, and that had a knock on effect to the rest of our game, barring the mid-field defence which stood up well under Chester pressure.”
What are you expecting from the Harrogate game this weekend?
“Well, we’ll work on the points I’ve already mentioned and make sure our attacking play is as good as it has been. If we can put it altogether, then Harrogate are going to find it hard to beat us. If we stand off and let them play, they’re good enough to get something out of the game. All we can do is concentrate on our own game. We’ve been pretty good so far this season with 6 wins from 6 games with an average of 5 tries a game, but there’s much more to come. When we get Chris Townsend back at scrum half and Tom Eaton gets back to playing 10 we’ll have the balance back in the team and will be a very difficult side to beat.”