If Macclesfield Rugby supporters were waiting for the ‘complete’ performance from the Blues, then they should’ve made their way down the motorway to Westleigh Park at the weekend when Macclesfield Blues took on Leicester Lions. In spite of the table-topping form of Macclesfield Blues, they have struggled at times to keep focused and play at full tilt for the whole 80 minute period. Well, any doubts about whether the Blues could deliver this complete performance were well and truly put to bed last weekend with a 46-20 defeat of a strong Leicester team. Was Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett, pleased with the performance and the result? You bet he was. In fact Geoff was positively purring with satisfaction. He’d said ahead of the game that he wanted absolutely concentration and focus, and the team delivered in spades. Here’s what Geoff had to say when he caught up with Macclesfield Rugby this week.
In terms of this season’s games would you say that’s about as close to the ‘complete’ performance as the Blues have put in this year?
“Well, I’d probably say it was really. Our biggest fault is that we haven’t managed to put in a performance where we applied ourselves for the full 80 minutes. We have managed to take our eyes off the ball at times and lost concentration and focus, but Saturday’s performance put matters right. It’s good to be putting wins together consistently, and it’s even better when you win with gusto like we did down at Westleigh Park. There were no periods were we lost concentration or focus, and we didn’t fall off at any stage. What pleased me most is that it was obvious from the start that Leicester were up for it: now you wouldn’t expect any less of the home side, but it looked to me like they were really fired up.”
“Their pack was big and strong, and for 30 minutes or so they pushed us all the way in spite of the really bad cross wind that plagued the game. They also seemed to manage to handle the Scottish exchange referee rather better than we did too, in spite of his ‘unusual’ interpretation of scrum law and breakdown play. What was pleasing was that every time Leicester managed to come up with something, be that a try or a penalty, we immediately managed to counteract it and come back strongly. We score 3 tries to their 1 in the first half, and after the break with the wind in our favour we dominated from start to finish. When we properly stretched ourselves after half time we looked excellent. We scored 5 quick tries and destroyed them.”
“Dean Williams and Dave Marwick dominated their line out and cut down what few options were open to Leicester given the conditions. I think we were also competitive in the scrummage in my view, though I think the set piece was difficult for both teams given the referee’s ‘unusual’ interpretation of the laws. I’m pretty sure last time I checked the referee’s interpretation in Scotland is the same as in England, though you’d never had guessed. Maybe you could say that Leicester had the upper hand in the scrum, but I think that’s probably down to Leicester being able to manipulate the referee better than we did.”
“I’d also like to pay tribute to the backs. There was a spring in their steps and they looked supremely confident. I though Elliot Brierley and Tom Davenport had really good games, as did both full backs, Edd Stobart and Matt King. Naturally we still had to let Leicester have the last say and score last, but I suppose that’s just nit-picking on my part. We stepped up a gear and took the game by the scruff of the neck and were fully deserving of our 8 try/5 point victory. Leicester are a decent side who may have lost 2 or 3 games, but they’ve not been beaten in that manner by anyone else.”
Dudley Kinswinford will present a rather different challenge: do you think the Blues may struggle to cope with facing a struggling side low on confidence?
“Well, it will certainly be a different game from Leicester. What we have to do is to approach each game with the same mind-set and disregard the relative league positions. Dudley may be at the bottom of the table, but like any other side in this league, give them a sniff of a chance, and the chances are that they’ll take it. We need to be clinical and take all of our chances: Stourbridge and Darlington put a lot of points past them (71 and 86 respectively), so we’re mindful of that.”
“We’ve always managed to raise our game against strong teams, yet have sometimes struggled to overcome opposition we were expected to beat. We will be very, very conscious of the fact that during training this week, and I’ll be stressing to the players that we can’t afford to show any mercy. Dudley are probably understandably low on confidence at the moment, but we can’t afford to let their plight affect the way we play. We will need to register the type of performance that both Stourbridge and Darlington put in against Dudley if we’re to keep our advantage in the league.”