Playing Rosslyn Park was never going to be easy, particularly away from home, but Macclesfield Blues put in a spirited performance none the less. They may have only left the capital with a try-scoring bonus point for all their efforts, but the Blues showed grit and a dogged determination which pleased Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, enormously.
They’ll need to maintain that same focus and determination this coming weekend when Old Albanian visit Priory Park. Last time the teams met the Hertfordshire side ran out comfortable winners: this time Giles believes it will be a different affair. Macclesfield Blues have developed and improved as a team and have shown glimpses of something special over the last month or so. Hopefully that improvement will be seen this weekend when the teams meet.
How would you describe last Saturday’s performance – close but no cigar?
“Well, I think I’d probably say that it was more a game of two halves. We had a fairly rough opening 10 minutes for one reason or another, but then we started to get more of a grip and got ourselves into promising positions with good field position. The pleasing thing for me, other than the opening 10 minutes, was that we showed that we could manage Rosslyn Park for the most part, but unfortunately the yellow cards proved to be our undoing.”
“Playing against a good side like Rosslyn Park with 14 men is tough: Playing with 13 men is catastrophic. In the period just before and after half time when we were down to 13 they scored 4 tries and effectively put the game out of sight. The good thing for me was our spirited response. We won the second half in terms of points scored, and I think the boys deserve an enormous amount of credit for the way they played and the resilience they showed. They stuck to the task and never let their heads drop, and that really pleased me.”
Despite the loss on Saturday, how satisfied were you with the performance?
“I think we were fairly dominant at the scrum, and certainly had parity at the line out. Their driving maul was very efficient, but ours was equally good when we got it going. A lot of people put in a big shift on the day, and as a result we played at a really good level. I know we lost and that’s still tough to take especially given how hard we worked for large parts of the game, but it’s obvious that we are continuing to develop and improve as a team.”
“I said to the players after the game to take heart from the way we’ve played in the last 3 fixtures against Ampthill away, Cambridge at home and Rosslyn Park away. I pointed out that if we can string together all the good things we’ve done during those 3 games and do it consistently, then we have proved we are a very dangerous side indeed. The only issue we continue to have is that there always seems to be a 15 minute-period where we lose concentration and things start to go wrong. Unfortunately, 15 minutes in National 1 is a lifetime, so we need to address this issue.”
When the Blues last played Old Albanian at Priory Park they were well beaten: do you think the game will be far more competitive this time around?
“I think we’re a totally different side now. When we last played them I don’t we were in a great space mentally for a number of reasons. Since then we’ve improved dramatically. Our practices have improved significantly since we’ve been using a 3G pitch, and I think that is showing itself in our performances. I’m not going to make any predictions about the weekend, but I have to say that over the last month or so we’ve made big steps forward and improved as a team, so I know we’ll perform much better this time.”
What do you see as Old Albanian’s major strengths?
“They’re very good at the defensive breakdown, so we’ll have to make sure we deal with that. They’re also one of those sides who seem to thrive on momentum, in the sense that once they get going they’re very difficult to stop. They’ve got a good offloading game and some very powerful runners. To compete with Old Albanian, you have to ensure is that you don’t let them get into their stride. That means picking up those big runners and getting them on the floor early. If we are able to do that I think we’ll be alright.”