Macclesfield Blues showed great determination and character at Tynedale last weekend, coming back from a 6 point deficit at the break and scoring 35 unanswered points in the second half. As a coach you’d have to be thrilled with that sort of performance, would you? Well, yes, you would, but you also have to be able to see the bigger picture too. That’s the opinion of Head Coach, Giles Heagerty.
Thrilled as he might have been with the Blues second half comeback, what concerned him most was how his team found themselves behind at the break in the first place. He knows that should the team be in a similar position at Priory Park on Saturday when they take on Otley, staging such a stirring fight back might prove rather more difficult. What Giles would much prefer is for the Blues to come out of the blocks firing this week. Here’s what Giles had to say to Macclesfield Rugby.
What did you learn about the team from Saturday’s performance at Tynedale?
“I think I learnt quite a lot. There was never any doubt that there was character within the group, but I think Saturday showed not just character but also a deep understanding of how we want to play the game. We also showed that we’ve got the capability to flex between styles. We ‘re obviously capable of attacking in numbers and chucking the ball around, but you also need to be able to tighten things up now and then and play pragmatically, so that you have the platform to attack from. I think on Saturday we showed a really good understanding of where we’re up to in terms of our strengths.”
“We also showed that we’ve got the ability to react to situations as they happen on the field. The perfect example of that was we had Ryan Parkinson covering the backs because of injuries. At half time we moved Ryan to 12 and switched Tom Eaton to 9, but Ryan quite rightly slotted himself into the driving line outs when we were attacking. It gave us extra momentum and meant he could take control of things. I found that really impressive. We were under a bit of pressure, but the boys reacted well with some good on-field decision making.”
Were you surprised by the team’s second half display?
“I knew towards the end of the half that Tynedale were running out of steam. They looked spent and that was clear to me from my position high in the stands. Tynedale’s pitch is massive, so I knew they’d struggle in the second half. I knew as long as we made the necessary adjustments the team had the character to turn things around. What I didn’t expect was that we’d perform so effectively. We put 35 points on them in 40 minutes and kept them pinned in their half.”
“As impressive as that was though, I think you have to view the performance in context. Before we start getting ahead of ourselves I think we have to give the result some perspective. For one reason or another, Tynedale didn’t have a bench like we did. We had more strength in depth, and I think that told in the end. As well as we played you have to remember that we were playing against a side whose resources were a little thin on the ground. Perhaps a better yardstick of the overall performance might be to look at the first half and ask ourselves the question why were we in that position in the first place. We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, even if we did score 35 unanswered second half points.”
What will be your main focus for the Otley game?
“I think the simple answer to that is making positive decisions. One of the areas we consistently focus on is our ability to make decisions. We spent more time on this in training last night. What we’re trying to get the team to appreciate is that it it’s not just the responsibility of traditional key players – the 9, 10 and 15 – to provide information on how the game is being played. We’re encouraging all the players to be proactive and to look at what is happening on the pitch. We have a game plan and a structure we play to, but sometimes players have to be a little more flexible and react to the things happening around them. If you can do that you defend better as a team and attack with greater purpose.”
“Not reacting to developing situations may have been an issue at Tynedale, but it will be more of a problem against Otley. Otley have beaten some good sides already. They’ll have taken confidence from last week’s win against Sale FC. They scored a fair amount of points and they also gave them a difficult time up front too. So we have to forget our respective league positions and concentrate on the game in hand. The fact that they are lower in the league than we are is of no consequence: what’s really important is remembering that there’s a team coming here who really want to beat us – and we’ve got to work hard to get something out of the game. We’ll only get that if we make positive decisions.”
Would you settle for a 60 minutes performance this weekend?
“Well, ideally I’d like us to produce a full 80 minutes performance for once, but I’d take 60 minutes, as long as it was the first 60. I’d ideally like us to come out of the blocks against Otley and really keep the hammer down.”