Macclesfield Blues travelled to Westleigh Park last weekend expecting a tough encounter, and that’s exactly what they got. Leicester Lions proved to be every bit as combative as predicted, and whilst the Blues may have managed to come away with 4 points in the end, they were certainly made to work for these. Next up is another difficult trip up to Cross Green to face Otley. When the sides last met at Priory Park, Otley pushed the Blues all the way. It was only during the last quarter of the game that the home side was able to take control.
What is Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, expecting this time round? Well, in short, an equally tough encounter. Otley boast a fine home record, having only lost 3 times on home turf this season. They’re a tough, physical and combative side, and Giles knows that if the Blues are to get anything from this game, Macclesfield Blues are going to have to be on the ball for the whole 80 minutes both physically and mentally.
You said last week that you suspected the Leicester Lions game was going to be a tight affair: did the game prove to be tougher than you were expecting?
“Well, yes it did. I knew it was going to be challenging, but I didn’t expect it would turn out to be quite as close as that. My immediate reaction having spoken to the staff and having watched the video is that perhaps we were average, and that Leicester had perhaps the best game they’d had all year. The result of these two combined factors meant we put ourselves under a little bit of pressure, particularly during the first half.”
“In the second half we started to show some of the character we’ve demonstrated all season, and that allowed us to go on and get the points we needed. Lewis Barker may not have had the best day with the boot – and I know he’d be the first one to admit that – but some of his defensive work and some of the things he did in attack were pretty special. He had a really good game and gave us added impetus in the second half.”
Is this ability to ‘dig deep’ a quality that the Blues were missing last season?
“I think that quality has actually come about as a direct result of last season. For all the problems we experienced last season, we could never be accused of giving up and quitting when we were under the cosh. The difficulties we had was staying with teams. The team this year is incredibly resilient, and I think, in part, that’s down to last years’ experience.”
“A lot of teams could quite easily have capitulated after what happened, but I’m glad to say we haven’t done that. We’ve licked our wounds, then rolled up our sleeves and said ‘right, let’s put it right’. We certainly not managed to get the job done fully yet, but we’ve put ourselves in a pretty good place, and that is testament to where the group is.”
Otley are well-placed in sixth place in the league and have a very good home record, are you expecting an equally tough encounter at Cross Green?
“It is going to be difficult. We know that because it’s a tough place to go to. They’ve been playing well and pushed Sedgley right to the end. So we know we have to go there and show them the respect they deserve. They gave us a tough game at Priory Park. Looking back at last weekend, I think it’s fair to say the experience we had against Leicester at Priory Park must have played some part in how our players reacted. We nilled Leicester then, and in some ways that experience will inevitably have been at the back of the players’ minds.”
“With Otley, on the other hand, we had a really tough game. We only really managed to take control in the last 20 minutes or so. So we know this weekend we’re really going to have to make sure we are on form if we want to take control. At this point of the season it comes down to honing performance. We can give the players all the information and we can and sit them down to watch the videos of their performances, but how they reflect on this and react is up to them. Hopefully they’ll react in the right way, and that will make the job a little easier as we prepare for this game.”
What are the major threats that Otley will pose?
“Well, their home form is impressive, so we know we’ll face challenges. They’re also a ‘confrontational’ sort of team, but in the right way – that is, in the way that rugby should be confrontational. They’re a tenacious team and they’re physical. They’ve got a good back row and a couple of good finishers in their back 3.”
“Whilst we have to be aware of these threats, we have to make sure we roll up our sleeves and maintain focus throughout the game. Otley are the sort of team that will work hard, so we’ve just got to make sure we’re ready for a contest. Every team poses some sort of threat: we just have to make sure we’re capable of dealing with these threats. Physically we’re in a good place with pretty much a clean bill of health: we just have to make sure we’re prepared mentally.”