With a 19-point half time advantage, Macclesfield Blues looked nailed on for a bonus point victory at Blaydon last weekend; but somehow the Blues managed to squander that advantage and were fortunate to come away with a draw. Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, may well have left the ground frustrated, but he’s the first to concede that the team still managed to come home with 3 points and in his view, in such a highly competitive league, every point is valuable.
Next up is the visit of high-flying Ampthill to Priory Park, so Macclesfield Blues know they face a very tough challenge indeed. Will the Blues be able to rise to that challenge? Here’s what Giles had to say.
What one word best describes your feeling after Macclesfield Blues’ poor second half display at Blaydon?
“I think frustration is the word that best describes it, particularly after playing so well in the first half. We just didn’t manage the game properly in the second half and that for me was incredibly frustrating.”
What made the difference in the second half: Blaydon’s improved performance or the Blues taking their foot off the pedal?
“I think it was more our doing, rather than Blaydon’s improved performance. We had a 19-point cushion at the start of the second half, so there was no need to go chasing the game or playing rugby in our final third. Obviously you don’t want to discourage players from attacking, but we just need to think more carefully about when and where we choose to attack the ball.
“As soon as you make an error in those areas of the field you start to force things and that just compounds the error. Add to that Blaydon’s strong scrum, and you end up conceding more penalties at the set piece; they then kick to the corner and we conceded penalties at the maul.”
“We talked at half time about the importance of scoring first and putting the thing to bed. Maybe we tensed up a bit trying to get that fifth try, but I think basically what happened was that we played into Blaydon’s hands.”
Do you regard the result as 3 points won, or 5 points lost?
“No, I think it more the latter. We certainly did enough in the first half to put ourselves in a position to take the full 5 points. However, our poor game management cost us. Still, any points gained in this league are valuable. Blaydon may not be the best or the strongest team in the league, but they’re not going to go down. Their solid scrum will see to that.”
“We always knew that going up to Blaydon on a dark October afternoon was going to be tough, so we have to be realistic and say that getting 3 points on the road is a satisfactory return. Obviously I’d have preferred 5, but 3 will do us. We’ve played 5 games and managed to get points out of 3 of them: they may not have been 4 or 5 pointers, but they are points none the less, and that’s a massive improvement on 2 years ago.”
Next up you face an Ampthill team sitting fourth in the league and playing well: the task doesn’t seem to get any easier does it?
“Certainly not, but that’s the nature of this league. Ampthill are a very good side. In fact, they’re a side littered with international caps – admittedly most of them from the Polynesian Islands – but despite the apparent enormity of the task facing us, I see this as a challenge. We, and by that I mean the coaching staff, have got to get our preparations right and we’ve got to make sure we get the players in the right frame of mind.”
“We also have to take some comfort from the fact that they’re going to have to come to Priory Park, so we have to try and make the most of our home advantage. I’ve said all along that I wanted to make Priory Park a hostile environment to visit, and hopefully we’re starting to achieve that. But, that aside, we have to acknowledge that Ampthill will probably be the best side we’ll have faced, so we’ve got to get our heads right. We showed against Hull if you’re head’s not in the right place, then you’ll come unstuck. We can’t afford for that to happen again.”