If you came to Priory Park last Saturday full of hope after the win down at Loughborough, you will no doubt have left the ground disappointed. Old Albanians weren’t in the mood to let Macclesfield Blues built any sort of momentum, and ruthlessly capitalised on any weaknesses and mistakes the home side made. The final score line probably flattered Old Albanians, but that is of little comfort to the team and its supporters. The question is how can you play so well one week, and then not perform to the same level the next? Well, there’s only one person qualified to answer that, and that’s Head Coach, Giles Heagerty. Here’s what he told Macclesfield Rugby when we chatted earlier this week.
Two games: two contrasting results. What was the difference between the two performances?
“I think that Old Albanians had a little bit more experience and know-how than Loughborough and that’s what made the difference. The Loughborough side are a very good side, but they were perhaps a little naïve at times, and that allowed us to capitalise on the situation and do the things we wanted to do. Old Albanian were a different proposition and made things very difficult for us: having said that we did score two fantastic tries in the first half against them last weekend which were straight off the training ground. Now that rarely happens, so we obviously must be doing something right. I haven’t got many issues with our first half performance, other than missing a kick under the posts which would’ve given us the lead.”
“In the second half I thought we looked distracted, and I said that to the players after the game. Losing Mike Finnemore was a big blow for us. Mike is a leader in deed rather than in word, and we clearly missed his presence in the latter stages of the game. We wobbled after Mike left the field, and by the time we managed to find our equilibrium again the game was probably already gone. I also thought we suffered as a result of the attritional nature of the game. It was a very hard game up front. I’m not saying the Old Albanian were particularly big or intimidating, but they were determined to hold their ground.”
“There was a particular period during the half when we were scrummaging for around 10 minutes. During that period Old Albanians replaced their full front row, but unfortunately we didn’t have that luxury. I think the impact that 10 minute spell had on our front 5 was significant. Don’t get me wrong the boys did a magnificent job under such extreme pressure, but I think the fatigue was probably determined the outcome of the match. Despite some interesting refereeing decisions during that 10 minute spell we showed a degree of technical ability, execution and intelligence that I hadn’t seen before, so I’ll definitely take the positives from that.”
Is there anything you can do to get more consistency in the team’s performances?
“I think that’s the $64,000 question, and I don’t really have an answer to it I’m afraid. It would certainly be nice to be able to put the same team out week in week out, but that’s something we’ve struggled to do. That unfortunately is the nature of semi-professional sport. One of the things we try to do is put the players in a situation where the only thing they have to focus on is rugby, but for a semi-professional outfit that’s very difficult to achieve. People have got other things going on in their lives, and they’ve also got jobs to go to – sometimes physical jobs, let alone illnesses and ailments to cope with. All these things are going to impact on performance and that makes it even more difficult to play consistently. They are things beyond our control, but whether we like it or not we have to manage them as best we can. All we can do is focus on the right things during the game.”
What are you expecting from Blaydon?
“We’ve got a good idea about what we’re likely to face. Micky Ward will definitely have them in decent nick up front. They’re the home team and they’ll be well-organised and well-drilled. I don’t think they’ve changed the way they approach the game too much, and I don’t mean that disrespectfully. Their style of play is very effective and usually brings them results so there’s no real need for change. Whether or not they are able to call on one of two Falcons players I’m not sure, but what we do know is that whenever you play up there it’s going to be a confrontation. As long as we prepare mentally and physically I think we should be able to give a good account of ourselves.”