It probably wasn’t the start to 2015 that the Blues would have wanted, but it was a performance that showed promise. Esher may have left Priory Park with 5 points, but Macclesfield Blues secured a losing bonus point and clearly demonstrated that they have the ammunition to complete at this level. Next up it’s a trip to Hartpury College. When the teams last met at Priory Park Macclesfield Blues were heavily defeated. Hopefully this time round the result might be different. The Blues are starting to put it together and have shown signs that they are finally turning the corner. Have they got the ability to beat Hartpury? Well, in the eyes of Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, they certainly have. Here’s what Giles had to say when he spoke to Macclesfield Rugby earlier this week.
The Blues may have lost the match, but did you see signs that the team is starting to build some sort of momentum?
“Overall the Esher game was quite satisfying, though we were disappointed not to get more than a point out of it. We all agreed that we had opportunities to win the game, but we just didn’t take them. We knew that Esher would come to Priory Park bringing a driving maul threat, and yet we unfortunately we still gave them two clear opportunities to utilise that threat and conceded 14 points as a result of that. If we hadn’t done that and you take those 14 points off the score line, then thanks very much, and we’ve got 4 points in the bag.”
“So I was disappointed that we didn’t cope with the threat we knew they’d bring, but I was also heartened by our overall performance levels. At other times during the game we coped with their driving maul very well, and we also never let our heads drop. We talked about it after the game and all agreed that prior to Christmas we would’ve been blown out of the game in the last 20 minutes, but now we’re showing a resilience to come back and go out there and grab something from the game.”
“We were still determined to get something out of the game even down to the last play when Sam James got dragged down right on the line. There’s was possibly some handling in the ruck which, had the referee spotted it, would’ve led to a penalty try. But our persistence at least gave us a penalty right under the sticks and the opportunity to bring the score back within 7 points and secure a losing bonus point. We looked refreshed and we looked sharp, and in that sense I am pleased.”
Was that performance something you can build on when you travel to Hartpury?
“I certainly hope so. Hartpury are a mid-table side, but they are going well. I think a lot of people have underestimated Hartpury. But if you look at their record you’ll see that they’ve effectively been promoted every year for the last 4 or 5 years. They know what they want, and they know what they’re doing. As a consequence they’re moving in the right direction. It’s important to remember that they are effectively professional athletes. So we have to look at the game in context. They can train every day and have access to their players ever day. That’s a luxury few other clubs are afforded.”
“What Hartpury are very good at is scrummaging. They’ve got access to some very good players and some very good scrummagers. It’s that that gives them a strong attacking platform from which to play attacking rugby. The good thing is that we know that, so we can pick a team that can combat that threat. I don’t think that when we played them at Priory Park we had a very good day in general. Now I think we’re in a much better place mentally and physically. That should allow us to go down there are be competitive. Our first job is to focus on scoring 4 tries: if we can do that we stand a good chance of winning the game. We need to nullify their pack and make sure we have a solid platform to play off ourselves. If we can achieve that then we’ve already shown we can do some damage in this league.”