Last weekend’s result against Hartpury is one that Macclesfield Blues will want to forget. Missed tackles, going down to 13 men and conceding 8 tries was certainly not in the script. But Macclesfield Blues have got to dust themselves down in preparation for the arrival at Priory Park of last season’s closest rivals, Darlington Mowden Park. If the Blues are to avenge the 41 points to 12 loss they suffered when they travelled to the North East in October, they will have to be fully focused and firing on all cylinders. They’ll all need to do their jobs and defend with their lives if they want to get the first home win of the season under their belts. That’s the message that Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, has been stressing to the players in training this week. Another poor defensive performance like the one against Hartpury, and the Blues can wave goodbye to any chance of a victory. Here’s what Giles had to say when he spoke to Macclesfield Rugby today.
Would you agree with the criticism that Macclesfield Blues were outplayed by Hartpury last weekend?
“Well, obviously I’m disappointed with the result, but I don’t think the final score fully reflected the nature of the game. I think we perhaps made them look very good. Don’t get me wrong, Hartpury are a very good side: they’re well-drilled and well-organised, but we failed to play the conditions in the right way. That’s what I found frustrating. Obviously, we had to make a number of enforced changes to the team from the week before, and that played a part too, because we just didn’t have any consistency. Selection issues will always play a part in these matches. Whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was the perfect storm, all of the various contributing factors led to us not producing the type of performance against Hartpury that I expected.”
Do you think the result might have been different had the Blues been able to keep all 15 players on the park?
“We were talking about that last night actually. Usually when you go down to 14 men, or 13 as we have done frequently this season, the ten minutes tend to drag, But strangely last weekend’s 10 minute penalty spell seemed to go very quickly; whether that was because the game was a very sort of stop/start affair I couldn’t say. But I didn’t feel that it contributed as much as it has done on other occasions. Granted they did score 7 points when we were depleted, but I didn’t feel it impacted on our energy levels later on in the game. Maybe that’s because it wasn’t that sort of game. The stop/start nature, particularly of the first 20 minutes of the second half, meant that we were still reasonably competitive during the final quarter of the game. However, I can tell you why we lost the game in a nutshell though: Hartpury missed 6 tackles all game, where we missed 37.”
The plan presumably against Darlington Mowden Park will be to make sure the defensive unit performs better than last week?
“Oh, there’s absolutely no question about that. There was a great deal of focus last night in training on tackling. When you get to play at National One level they should all be very good technically. Because we missed so many tackles last weekend it suggests to me that the problem is a mental thing, rather than a technical one. The questions we have to ask of the players are: are they prepared to stick their heads in and are they prepared to put their bodies on the line for the team. Perhaps last weekend we weren’t in the right frame of mind, but this weekend – goodness me – there needs to be a response. I want a much better, focused performance from a number of players because with the bodies we’ve got coming back from injury I’m facing a number of selection dilemmas. That’s not to say the players are playing for their places: but certainly we need people to start performing, otherwise we’ll have to find someone else to start doing their job. The players are all fully aware of this.”
What have you made of Darlington this season?
“It’s tough to say really. They’ve obviously gone out and invested heavily in their squad. We know that they’ve got at least 10 full-time players. Yet at the same time they seem to have struggled to adjust to National One rugby like we have. I couldn’t say why, as it would be unfair for me to speculate about the reasons for this. But I have to say I’ve been surprised by some of their results I must confess. They’re a good side, and on their day they’re capable of getting good results as last weekend’ s beating of Richmond clearly shows. I think they’re just trying to get themselves settled in National One, and perhaps that’s taken a little bit longer than they might’ve expected. It also takes time to bed in new players, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see. But as is always the case, we’re not really focusing on them. We know the way they play, and we know what they’re capable of: what we have to concentrate is our own game, do all the things we know we’re capable of doing, and do them well.”