Well, the Blues may have made it to this year’s Cheshire Cup final, but they certainly made heavy weather of it. It was always going to be a tough competitive match, but no one could’ve foreseen the half time score before kick-off. Macclesfield Blues went in at the break 26 points to 3 down, having only one penalty to show for all their first half efforts. However, after one or two tweaks and a few ‘encouraging’ words from senior players during the half time break, the Blues managed to turn things round with an exceptional second half rally.
Will that sort of performance set the Blues up well for what will probably be the most competitive game of the season so far, when they take on Sandal this weekend? Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, still isn’t quite sure of the answer to that. Whilst he acknowledges that having the ability to dig deep is a great quality, he would much rather the team not get into that position in the first place. He would much rather see a controlled performance from the first to the final minute every game. Here’s what Giles had to say this week.
As cup semi-finals go, last Saturday’s Cheshire Cup game was a strange one; what happened?
“It was definitely a ‘strange’ game. To go in 26-3 down at half time was quite sobering. How did we find ourselves in that position? Well, it’s difficult to say. We did make one or two errors in the first half, but we only really had two periods of possession – one of which we got a penalty from and the other one we very nearly scored from.”
“Because of that at half time I was still fairly calm. There was certainly no need to raise my voice and shout. The players were the ones who did that and quite rightly too. They were fairly outspoken and that certainly helped the team’s focus for the second half. From my point of view I knew that all we needed to do really was maintain possession. So to do that we simply tweaked a couple of things, and then off we went.”
“The biggest message from me at half time was that we had to score first. Once we’d managed to achieve that you could see our tails went up, whilst Sandbach’s went down. My biggest concern during the second half was that we could potentially run out of time to turn the result around. But as it happened we managed to get the job done.”
Do you think that such a backs-to-the-wall performance will set you nicely for the Sandal game this weekend?
“You’re not the first person to have asked me that, and I’m still not sure I’ve got an answer. Clearly being able to dig yourselves out of a hole, particularly from 26-3 down, was an exceptional performance. But at the same time we have found ourselves in this position coming from behind 3 or 4 times already this season, and the one thing I’m keen to avoid is this developing into some kind of habit. One wants to avoid being in the position where you start to say it doesn’t matter if we’re behind at half time because we know we can always come back from there. The problem with that attitude is that you’ll eventually come unstuck somewhere down the line.”
“I think what we need to do from now on is exert a little more control during the first 40 minutes of the match, particularly when we play Sandal. Rugby’s an 80 minutes game and when you start playing quality teams you’ll need to play for all 80 of those minutes, not just 40 or 60. Last Saturday we didn’t manage to do that, but we’ll continue to strive for that performance starting this Saturday.”
Sandal have taken some big scalps so far this season: are you expecting them to come to Priory Park with no fear of reputation?
“I’ve said before that Sandal will be coming here confident that they can beat us, and I still stand by that view 100 per cent. They’ve already taken some decent scalps this season, including Sedgley Park, so they’ll be confident alright. They may have lost their last game to Sale FC, but that only happened in the last play of the match. So I think we’ll hold no fear for them at this point in time.”
“What we have to focus on is our performance and really making sure we control the game. We have to make opponents, Sandal in this case, realise that they’re not going to have it all their own way when they visit Priory Park.”
Where would you say Sandal’s major threat lies?
“Well they’ve clearly got a very talented backline. They’ve got a very good winger and talented half backs. Their 9 has played England Counties, and we know they’ve got a very good kicking game. By all accounts Sandal’s greatest strength is that they are very organised defensively and have proved to be very difficult to break done. It may take us some time to get a break against them so patience will be key for us. We have to accept that we won’t score every time we get the ball, but what we have to do is make sure that when we do get our opportunities, we take them. Oh, and not giving them a head start would also be nice!”