Macclesfield Blues may not have come away with any points from the Rock last Saturday, but the Blues improved second half performance gave Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, some comfort. The first half was disrupted by injury, substitutions and one or two strange refereeing decisions, but in the second half Macclesfield Blues showed they are a good rugby side. They’ll need to produce that same sort of form when they take on league leaders, Ealing Trailfinders, at Priory Park this weekend. However, whilst the task ahead might appear to be a daunting one, Giles is not overly concerned. Ealing may be flying, but results have shown that the team are beatable. The gulf in terms of playing staff and funding may be wide, but Giles is confident that it Macclesfield Blues produce the type of performance he knows they are capable of, then he knows the result may be much closer than many people predict. Here’s what Giles had to say to Macclesfield Rugby.
You said last week that you didn’t mind losing to a better team, but you didn’t like being beaten by yourselves. Do you think that was an issue in the first half against Rosslyn Park?
“I’m not so sure about that, but there’s no doubt that we made a number of errors during the course of the first half. I think that it was more circumstances that worked against us. Although both the coaches and the players at Macclesfield have a no-excuses culture it’s true to say that sometimes things can distract you. We knew before the game that there was a problem with Billy Robinson during the week, but made the decision to travel with 21 men. Sure enough Billy pulled up in the warm up, so that meant we were forced into making a positional change. That in itself is no problem. Shane Heffernan steps up and Josh Fearns goes onto the bench. Unfortunately 6 minutes into the game, Shane goes down at the first scrum and has to be replaced by Josh.”
“I think these unexpected things can affect concentration levels and knock you off your game a little. I think that is perhaps more of an explanation for our first half performance. That’s not to say we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot too. We had opportunities to score, but let ourselves down with the last pass. Fortunately we were able to regroup at the break, and we managed to turn things around in the second half. Then we looked more like the team we know we are.”
What did you make of the referee’s decision to award a penalty try after only the two scrums?
“I’ve not had a chance to review the game yet, but it did seem like a very strange decision to me. To give a penalty try at technically the second scrum of the game [the first scrum leading to Shane’s injury] seems ludicrous to me. There was no warning to either set of players, and no real explanation, other than the front rows had come up on engagement. When I spoke to all 3 members of our front row they were pretty convinced they were still down in the scrum when the call was made.”
“Questionable decisions like that are also a distraction, and that didn’t help our cause. The thing is that was the fifth time the referee had been in charge of one of our games. And you would therefore have thought you might get some form of consistency over those games. But unfortunately every game has been different. Having said that, apart from that call he arguably had his best game refereeing us this season. The biggest problem for me is the lack of consistency that’s applied not just from game to game, but during games also. He yellow carded Matt King for blocking a quick tap in the first half, but failed to penalise the Rosslyn Park player when he did exactly the same thing in the second half. All you want at the end of the day is consistency. I know consistency is a very subjective concept, but if you get the same referee over a number of games, then surely consistency isn’t too much to ask for.”
Will Macclesfield Blues need to produce the type of performance they displayed in the second half against Rosslyn Park, to stand any chance of getting a result against Ealing?
“We had a good training session last night and we set ourselves some targets ahead of this week’s game against Ealing. Meeting those targets is all we’re going to worry about. Ealing are a very good side, but they’re not unbeatable as the results prove. Ealing are a class side but they’re not the ‘immortals’ everyone makes them out to be. It just goes back to what I’ve always said: we need to concentrate on our processes and make sure we’re doing the things we want to do – not allowing them or the referee to be able to dictate any part of the game. If we can concentrate fully on our own game, then I’m confident we can cause Ealing some issues. We’re well aware of the differences between the two sides in terms of personnel and funding, but at the end of the day it’s still just a rugby game with 30 players on a piece of grass.”
Will Billy Robinson be likely to feature on Saturday?
“It looks pretty promising. The physio’s worked really hard on him last night, and he’s certainly moving a lot better; so I think it’s highly likely he’ll be involved at some stage this weekend.”