Macclesfield Blues may have come away from Preston Grasshoppers with a bonus point victory, but it certainly couldn’t be said that the victory was easily earned. Preston made the Blues work for every point, but that was hardly surprising in the circumstances: for Preston there was pride at stake, having been soundly beaten when they visited Priory Park in December. The Lightfoot Lane crowd demanded a much better performance this time round, and that’s precisely what they got. For Macclesfield Blues the show rolls on. Darlington play their catch up fixture against Sheffield Tigers this weekend. Form would suggest that they will win that game and probably secure the bonus point too, meaning that the top 3 sides will go into the final game of the campaign with just 4 points separating them. So, it’s still all to play for. Here are Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett’s thoughts, as he plots the Blues final assault on the title.
Were you happy with the performance up at Lightfoot Lane?
“Well yes I was. It was a tough old match, but that’s what we’d prepared for. We didn’t have it all our own way and were made to work for the points. Actually I think that’s a good thing really. We had to show grit and determination and dig in when Preston came back at us. It might not have been the most convincing display of the season, but given the pressure the boys are under it’s hardly surprising. What’s important is that we got the win and the bonus point and maintained our position at the top of National League Two North. We’re going to need the same levels of grit and determination when we travel up to Darlington for the final game.”
How are you preparing the players for the season’s finale?
“Well, it’s simply a question of re-enforcing the same mantra we’ve hammered into the players all season, and that’s to carry on doing what we’ve been doing well. We know we’re a potent attacking force and we also know that we can defend well when necessary. It’s those strengths that have got us to where we are now at the top of the league, and hopefully it will be those same strengths that will keep us there.”
Is it difficult to prepare when you’re still not sure how many points Darlington will have amassed?
“No, I don’t see that as a problem. Yes I know Darlington Mowden Park still need to play their postponed game against Sheffield Tigers, but without wishing to show any disrespect to Sheffield, it’s probably odds on that Darlington will come away with a win. Whether they manage to get the bonus point or not only time will tell, but it doesn’t affect how we’ll prepare for the game. We’ll be going up there looking to win, because we’ll need a victory to guarantee the title.”
“As things stand Macclesfield Blues may have scored the most tries in the league, but we’ve also got an inferior points’ difference. Stourbridge are on + 649, and Darlington are currently on + 624. The Blues points’ difference stands at +575. So it’s all very tight at the top. If Stourbridge take 4 points from their final game and we narrowly lose to Darlington without managing to secure a losing bonus point, we could all end the season on 130 points. Unfortunately because of inferior points’ difference, we could the end up finishing third. That’s why we have to get something out of the Darlington game: in short that’s why we’re going to have to win. The players know the score and they’ll be doing everything they can to make the travelling Macclesfield supporters proud and bring the trophy home to Priory Park.”