It was always going to be challenging travelling down to Blackheath. You know when you’re playing a team sitting fourth in the league that you’re in for one tough day. Sadly that’s exactly what Macclesfield Blues got – a very tough day indeed. Few imagined the Blues would in all probability pull off a shock result, but many expected a much closer-fought match. In the end Blackheath won the game comfortably, and the Blues were left to lick their wounds and travel home knowing that next up they are to face the unbeaten Hartpury College.
As challenges go, they don’t come any tougher. It will be an enormously difficult match, but Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, isn’t prepared to throw in the towel before a ball is even kicked. He believes with the right preparation, the right mental attitude and Priory Park advantage, the Blues will do their utmost to rise to the challenge. Here’s what Giles had to say.
What was the main difference between the two teams last Saturday?
“Before I answer that I should tell you in the interest of transparency that I wasn’t at the match on Saturday because of other commitments: however, I have watched the whole match on video now so feel I am in a position to speak. To answer the question directly the principal difference between the two teams was that they could keep hold of the ball and we couldn’t. They were able to create a number of opportunities on the back of our mistakes and they always had a number of bodies around the ball when we made mistakes; as a result of that they were able to take those opportunities.”
“If you’re going to turn the ball over as many times as we did on Saturday, then it doesn’t really matter who you’re playing: you’re going to struggle to win. When you’re playing a team that’s fourth in the league you’re going to come badly unstuck. Blackheath are a good side – their league position clearly tells you that: but I don’t think you can read too much into Saturday’s result, as I don’t believe that performance gives an adequate reflection about where we are at the moment.”
National 1 has always been a highly competitive league, but do you think the disparity between the top and mid to lower levels teams means there is now effectively two or three leagues within the league?
“It’s always been the case, though I can see how it might appear to be more pronounced this season. All I would say is that in every league I’ve been involved with there’s always been at least or three sections in the divisions. I’ve no desire to sound the violins when I say this, but the difference is simply down to this: there are teams who have and there are teams who have not.”
“It’s the same in all leagues. Look at the Premiership for example. The top 4 sides are the teams with the biggest budgets: the bottom sides, possibly with the exception of Bristol, have probably got the smallest budgets. Bristol’s problem stems from late recruitment and that affected the quality of player they could recruit. It’s the same in the Championship and it’s the same in National 1, and probably in every league in the country, and arguably across the world.”
“If you’ve got money and resource you’re going to be able to attract more players and better players. That’s not so say we haven’t got some good players: we have – some very talented players indeed. The difference for a team like Macclesfield Blues is that we don’t own the players’ time. That’s the biggest disparity in National 1. The teams at the top of the league get more time with their players and that shows in the level of their performances.”
Is there anything the Blues can do to stop the Hartpury College juggernaut?
“Any side is capable of being beaten on any given day. Just look at the most recent examples when Italy beat South Africa and Ireland beat New Zealand. Hartpury are a very good side, but, like I said, no side is unbeatable.”
“I’m not going to say too much about what we’re going to do at the weekend because we don’t want to show our hand too early: however, as I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions the one thing you have to have going into games like this is the right mentality. It’s all too easy to look at Hartpury’s result last week against Moseley and the rest of the results they’ve put together this season and think we’ve no chance.”
“The problem is if you go into a game with that sort of mentality you’re beaten before you even take to the field. So we’re not going to do that. We’ll go into the game with right attitude and mentality, and we’ll focus on the things we want to do. If we get that right, then Hartpury can do what they like.”