After last weekend’s outstanding Priory Park performance against Sandal, you’d naturally assume the team would give themselves a pat on the back and bask in the glory of victory. After all, Sandal are by far the toughest team the Blues have faced so far this season. However, resting on your laurels is not a concept that holds much sway for Head Coach, Giles Heagerty. Although he was undoubtedly pleased with the way the Blues neutralised Sandal’s attacking threat, his mind immediately started to focus on the next game against Harrogate as soon as the final whistle went. For Giles’s philosophy is this: forget what’s gone- it’s history. It’s what comes next that matters. Here’s what Giles had to say to Macclesfield Rugby ahead of the Harrogate game.
Would you say that about as close as the Blues have come to delivering an 80 minute performance this season?
“Well, it was certainly our best performance, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was an 80 minute performance. I felt we were a little bit flat after half time, and I think we probably missed a couple of scoring opportunities too. Still overall it was still a very good performance, particularly when you take into account the high standard of the opposition.”
What pleased you most about the Sandal performance: effective attacking or resilient defending?
“You’ve got to remember that Sandal came into the game with the league’s best defensive record, and were clearly a very, very efficient attacking force too – almost to the point of being ruthless. We neutralised their attacking threat though some very resilient defending and we took our attacking opportunities too. So all in all, it was the total performance that gave me the most satisfaction. We didn’t concede a try and we were able to take 4 of the 6 scoring opportunities we created. When you consider we were playing one of the best teams in the league, you have to say that was a very good performance indeed.”
You’ve said throughout the course of the season that you want the team to improve with each and every game: given last weekend’s performance, where do you still see the need for further improvement?
“We still need to execute certain things better. We probably allowed Sandal to dictate one or two things to us, and that allowed them to neutralise some of our threats. Part of that was down to the way they were playing the game, but the other part of it was down to our failure to address those issues. My philosophy as an attack coach is that everything we do has to influence the opposition’s defence. But there were a couple of points in the game where we failed to put this philosophy into practice. That’s something we’ve got to look at.”
“Although we were ruthless defensively, I think we can probably be more ruthless in attack. We certainly left two tries out there on Saturday and we won’t always be able to afford to do that. You might only get one opportunity a game in certain matches, and you need to be focused and ruthless enough to take that opportunity when it comes along. I think that’s a mental issue and it’s somewhere we’re looking to improve on.”
What threats do Harrogate offer?
“Harrogate offer a different kind of threat particularly defensively. We’ve done a fairly comprehensive preview on them, and we’ve realised that we’re going to have to adapt a couple of things we do in order to counter that threat. From what we’ve seen of them they’re a physical side with some big physical players. They’ve got a very talented 10, and they’ve also got an excellent kicking game which I would expect them to try and use. They’re also at home, and that’s a factor we’ve got to consider, and they’re clearly effective in what they do. So we’ve got to be on our metal and we’ve got to forget about what we did last weekend.”
“It’s very easy to look at last weekend’s performance and say that’s the benchmark, but we’ve got to approach the Harrogate game fresh and expect as a minimum the same sort of performance as last weekend, but with added improvements. What I mean is we have to strive to improve on last week and do something even better. It’s far too easy to rest on your laurels, particularly where you’ve played well.”
“Anybody can give themselves a pat on the back and say well, that was good, but if you do there’s a danger you go into the next game focusing on last week’s performance instead of concentrating on this week’s. As far as I was concerned as soon as the whistle went last Saturday, my mind immediately switched to focusing on Harrogate. I know the players feel the same way too. They know when you’re at the top of the tree everyone wants to knock you off, but they’re prepared for that.”