The Blues have been trying to make Priory Park a fortress this season and turn it into a ground other teams fear to travel to. For 60 minutes last weekend the Blues lived up to this promise and matched Rosslyn Park pretty much point for point. Unfortunately after a couple of lapses in concentration, following a period on concerted Rosslyn Park pressure, the Blues conceded two quick tries and the game was effectively over. Although head Coach, Giles Heagerty, was clearly frustrated with the outcome, he still believes the Blues have got the ability, quality and belief to turn the season around. Those qualities will be needed when Macclesfield Blues travel down to Woollams to take on Old Albanian this weekend. Although Old Albanian have lost 4 games on the bounce, Giles knows that at home they can still cause problems. Here’s what Giles had to say.
What went wrong in the last quarter of Saturday’s game?
“I think fatigue played its part. We fielded a couple of guys who hadn’t played much rugby and they struggled with the pace of the game. I think it’s fair to say that fatigue certainly played a part in at least one of their tries. I also think we let the pressure get to us a bit. They had us under the pump for about four or five minutes before they took the lead, and we finally conceded and gave into the pressure. In some strange ways you almost want a team to score so that the pressure is relieved. You can then get the ball back in their half and get on with it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m happy conceding tries: it’s just that it can act as a sort of pressure valve release.”
“Unfortunately that wasn’t what happened. We seemed to switch off for a little bit and our heads dropped. That then allowed them to score again very quickly, and by that stage the game was gone. All we could do after that is chase the game, and when you’re under pressure and chasing a game you tend to try and do extraordinary things, and that is never good as you can come truly unstuck.”
What do the team need to do to turn the season around, other than win a game or two?
“You took the words out of my mouth there! From a player’s perspective I think what we need to do is focus all our energies on concentration levels. They need to maintain concentration for the full 80 minutes. All it takes in National 1 rugby is a 10-minute dip in concentration levels and you’ve lost the game. If just one person has one loose moment, you can come unstuck. So we need the players to be sure they are in the right head space for the full game.”
“We also need to go back to basics. The coaching staff have been working on this, and I think in the first 40 minutes you could see what a difference that approach made. What we need to do is reinforce that message and make sure we get things right. We also need to make sure we get more direct transfer from practice sessions to what happens on a Saturday, by that I mean making sure that the things we work on in training are more relevant to the group.”
“It’s all and good working on trying to improve things on the back of performances, but as a team you really need to be looking forward. If all you’re doing is firefighting and trying to correct mistakes from the previous weekend, then ultimately you’ll get no progression: you’ll either end up at a standstill or you’ll go backwards.”
“You’ll have noticed that I’ve not really said anything about winning, and that’s because I think that can be counter-productive. On Saturday there was maybe too much focus on the fact that it was a ‘must win’ game. So the team was totally focused on outcomes. I think that’s dangerous. What we should be focusing on is process. If the team go behind again I don’t want them to think, oh we’re going to lose the game: what I want to do is concentrate on the processes we’ve worked on and say, ok this is what we’re now going to do to deal with this situation. Ultimately I want the players to be able to do this without having to overthink it.”
Old Albanian have beaten Rosslyn Park, but lost 4 consecutive games; what sort of threats do you think you’ll face on Saturday at Woollams?
“James Shanahan is a very canny operator. He’s a very good coach, and whether he’s playing or not, I know you’ll still see his influence on Old Albanian on Saturday. They’ve had a tough 3 or 4 weeks, especially last weekend against Moseley, but I don’t think you can read too much into that: Moseley were, after all, a Championship side last season. I’m not trying to avoid answering the question, but I have to say I don’t really care what Old Albanian can or can’t do. We need to concentrate on us and our performance. Naturally we ‘ll spend some time focusing on some of the elements Old Albanian will bring to the game in our preview, but the reality is we need to get ourselves right. That’s where all my energies will be focused this week.”