They came, they saw and they well-and-truly conquered. Macclesfield Blues may have lost the final game of the season away at fellow title-contenders, Darlington Mowden Park, but they came away with spoils and ended the day as Champions of National League Two North. It was a fitting reward after a long, hard season and the perfect send off for retiring Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett. The Blues earned the right to be crowned Champions, and they took the opportunity when it presented itself, much to the delight of the faithful Macclesfield travelling supporters. We might not be seeing Geoff and Andy Northey on the training paddock or at Priory Park any more, but few can argue that they have left a legacy on which Macclesfield Rugby Club can build over the next couple of seasons. Here are Geoff’s final thoughts and reflections on life in National League Two North.
How proud are you feeling right now?
“Oh I’m definitely feeling proud alright: proud of the team and proud of the performance too. In fact you could say I’m so proud I’m almost bouncing. What made it extra special was the fact that the result wasn’t handed to us on a plate. Darlington made sure we had to work for it, and respect has to go to them for pushing us all the way. Darlington are a really good professional side, and we had to be at our very best to get anything out of the game. Darlington threw everything at us, and I’m proud to say that the boys never buckled or bowed. They’d earned the right to be crowned Champions after 8 months of fiercely-competitive rugby, and I’m delighted they grasped the opportunity with both hands.”
“We started off well, and were pretty dominant for the first 10 minutes or so, but then Darlington upped the ante and started to put us under pressure. As soon as Sam Moss got binned I knew we were going to be under the cosh. They started to use their pace and were able to stretch the play and take a 2 try lead into the break. I was glad when the first half ended because I felt we needed to regroup and reassess our situation.”
What did you say to the boys at half time?
“I told them that we were stronger in the forwards, and that we had to use that advantage to maximum effect in the second half. Darlington definitely had the upper hand behind the pack, so I told the boys we had to try and deny them space and opportunity. We’re very well aware of our strengths, but felt that we hadn’t necessarily played to them in the first 40 minutes. The final message was simply to have faith in the system that had served us so well previously.”
Were you able to keep your nerves in check during the last nail-biting 20 minutes?
“Well, it may have only been 20 minutes, but, believe me, it felt like a lot longer. We’d got them under the cosh and were bombarding them and throwing everything we’d got at them, but Darlington were defending magnificently. But I’m glad to say we kept our patience, and that patience paid off in the end. I said to Andy at the time that ideally what we needed to do was score late, but there’s late, and there’s late, and boy, was that late. Still, it worked out well for us as it didn’t give Darlington time to reply. The last 15 minutes were, on reflection, bloody marvellous for both the players and the large numbers of travelling Macclesfield fans. It didn’t do much for my nerves mind you.”
How does it feel to go out on such a high?
“Well, it’s simply fantastic, and I couldn’t have asked for more. If I’d written my own script at the start of the season and suggested that was how it would’ve ended, nobody would’ve believed me. It was real Roy of the Rovers stuff. Not many players of coaches will ever experience that sort of high in a career. We have together, and it’s an experience I and the players will never forget. It capped off what for me has been a fantastic tenure at Macclesfield Rugby Club and I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it.”