After a shaky start to the season Macclesfield Blues have hit a rich vein of form. Having beaten Broadstreet last weekend in a game that was probably closer than the team would’ve liked, Macclesfield Blues will be hoping to keep the momentum going when they take on South Leicesterat Priory Park this weekend. Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, is happy with the Blues’ attacking form, but does have some concerns about the team’s defensive mindset. Whist these issues have been addressed in training this week, Giles still believes the result this weekend will be determined by which team best adapts to the referee and the circumstances during the game. Here’s what Giles had to say.
The Blues look very good in attack, but appear to be struggling defensively: does this concern you?
“Since the Broadstreet game we’ve done a comprehensive review both with the coaching staff and the players. We went through the video last night in training and flagged up one or two points. Our defensive system is sound, but the issue that caused us problems last Saturday was mentality. We all agree, not just in the team but throughout the game as a whole, that tackling is all a question of mentality. I think we showed on Saturday that we probably didn’t give Broadstreet enough respect, and the fact is we could’ve come unstuck. In fact if I showed you the startling statistics that came out of Saturday’s game, then we probably should’ve come unstuck. Thankfully our attacking abilities came to the rescue.”
“We had a good session last night, not just in terms of our review of the game, but also in terms of our on-field work. The players have had to sharpen up on some of their individual skills and get their mind set right. Hopefully this weekend against South Leicester we’ll see a marked improvement. We can’t afford to concede 37 points again. We can’t approach the game like Newcastle under Keegan and play on the basis if you score 4, we’ll score 5. All our concentration needs to be focused on stopping teams scoring against us.”
Were the defensive frailties exacerbated by playing the game with only 14 players for 20 minutes?
“Well, generally one knows that if you go a man down you will concede a least one try. That’s a standard belief across the game. So if you go down to 14 men for 20 minutes it stands to reason you’re going to concede some points. I can’t argue with the referee’s decision, but what I would say is that both of those sin-binnings came as a result of sustained Broadstreet pressure, and that pressure was caused by us not dealing with the threat further up the pitch.”
“If you don’t defuse the pressure early, then you put yourself under unnecessary strain. Did the sin- binnings contribute to the points we conceded? Yes – they probably did, but they didn’t exacerbate our defensive frailties. We’d missed a tackle from the kick off and conceded a try from 60 metres. The mindset of the players was wrong from the start, and not enough of the players were switched on. If you give any team a sniff early on in the game, then their tails will get up. That’s what we need to address, or we’ll struggle when we play South Leicester at the weekend.”
So mindset is going to critical this weekend against South Leicester?
“Yes -definitely. South Leicester are a good team with a strong driving maul and a fly half who can kick three quarters of the length of the pitch. Discipline is what’s going to be important on Saturday, not just in terms of how we play, but also in making sure we listen to the referee and play to the laws. The problem is if you give teams like South Leicester the opportunity, then they’ll take them. So we have to be clued up what’s happening during the course of the game and make sure our minsdset is right. You only have to look at what happened to England last weekend to see what happens when it’s not. If you fail to adapt to the referee and the circumstances, then suddenly you’ll find yourself facing a mounting penalty count and be back under the pump.”
Are you confident going into this weekend’s game?
“Yes we’re confident in our own abilities, but we have to respect South Leicester and we have to earn the right to score points. We can only do that if the boys on the field do their jobs. We’ve shown that when we do that we can score some good tries. What’s gratifying is that it’s not just the same few players scoring the tries. A lot of the players are contributing points, and that for me is testament to both the system we’re playing and the workrate of the players. “