Macclesfield Blues may not have been able to pull off a shock win against second-place Plymouth Albion last weekend, but they certainly gave it their best shot. After all, this was a side coming to Priory Park on the back of a 10-game unbeaten run. The Blues may have lost the game by 3 points but they did manage to pick up a losing bonus point, and although that may be scant consolation, given the fact that Macclesfield Blues are now relegated; it does at least reward the players for their sterling efforts on the day. Although Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, is desperately disappointed with relegation, he is none the less confident that the team will have learned from the experience and believes the players are more than capable of doing something special in National League 2 North.
How proud were you of the players’ performance last weekend?
“Oh, I’m really proud. It was a fantastic performance. We played some of the best rugby of the season. We talked at length about the final games of the season, and set ourselves a number of challenges: one of those was about how we defended and our mentality. The players certainly delivered on those promises on Saturday. Plymouth are a big physical side, and you can see why they’re currently sitting second in the league. Never the less, we were able to force them into making a number of uncharacteristic errors. I thought we played very well indeed and I’m immensely proud of the boys.”
“If there is a criticism of the performance, and it’s a small one at that, we probably let them come onto us too much at the beginning of the game. It’s the same sort of error we’ve made against other top teams. That probably wasn’t helped by the fact that we deliberately choose to play into the strong headwind in the first half. Still, that tactic made sense, as we were confident in our defence and we knew we could pose an attacking threat in the second half. They probably earned their 14 points in that first half, but we were certainly worth the 10 points we scored in that period if not more.”
Now that the Blues are definitely relegated will you change anything, or loosen the shackles in the remaining 3 games?
“I think we’ve probably been trying to do that all season! We’ve talked extensively in the past about the pressures we face in this league and how to deal with them. I guess the pressure’s off now, but I’m still not really sure whether anything will change particularly now we’re relegated. We might look at playing different combinations with an eye to next season, but other than that I think we’ll probably just carry on playing as we have in the last month or so. We’re already playing some good rugby, and we’ll look at sharpening a few things in attack in training this week, but the problem is if you take the shackles off entirely then there’s the potential to become unstuck, particularly against quality sides like Blackheath and Hartpury.”
What are you expecting from Blackheath this weekend at Priory Park?
“Blackheath are a good side and are capable of beating anyone. Out last trip down there was a tough one, and we were well beaten on the day. So, yes they are a good side, but so what? Plymouth were second in the league: so what? You always have to respect your opponents, but it doesn’t matter who they are. There’s a big difference between respecting a team, and rolling over. AS far as we’re concerned we’re just going to keep on doing the things we’ve done well over the last 3 or 4 weeks.”
What message would you give to the Priory Park supporters following Macclesfield Blues’ relegation?
“I think any supporter who’s either watched us play live or watched the highlights will have seen us play some outstanding rugby this season. However, on occasions we’ve been a little bit unfortunate with some results. In 5 or 6 games I could point to we know that had we done things ever so slightly different or made different choices, we probably would’ve got 4 or 5 points, and we’d be safe now.”
“The key message I’d like to give to supporters is that, although we may have been relegated again, I still feel very positive about where we are in terms of our rugby ability. Obviously there will be 1 or 2 challenges we’ll have to face in terms of infrastructure and managing player turnover in the closed season, but it’s still an exciting time for Macclesfield Rugby Club. Despite the disappointment, we are a better side than we were last year just as we’re were a better side then than we were 2 years ago.”
“Whilst getting relegated is extremely disappointing for everyone in the playing group and management group; we’ve got to make sure we learn from the experience and we apply that knowledge in a positive way next year. I’m not going to sit here and say confidently that we’ll bounce straight back up again next year as I think that setting us up for a fall: however, I am confident that we can get in there and do something special.”