There were no shocks when Macclesfield Blues took on Hartpury last weekend. That wasn’t surprising given the relative positions of the two sides: one flying high and unbeaten all season, and the other already relegated. Anyone would be forgiven for thinking that the contest was a very one-sided affair, however, Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, believes the game was closer and more competitive than the final scoreline might suggest. The principle difference between the teams was that Macclesfield struggled to retain possession, whereas Hartpury were ruthless every time they had possession.
The final visitors to Priory Park this season are Esher. The Blues were unlucky not to come away with a victory on the opening day of the National 1 season, and will be looking to right that wrong. For that to happen Macclesfield Blues will need to rediscover the form they’ve shown over the last 5 or 6 weeks when they beat Blackheath and ran Moseley and Plymouth very close. Saturday represents an opportunity to end the season on a high, and Giles knows that every player will be determined to give it their best shot and reward the supporters for their loyalty throughout the course of the season. Here’s what Giles had to say:
You said last week that Hartpury were a ‘monster’ in rugby terms: where they even better than you feared, and is it fair to say the final scoreline showed they were the dominant side?
“Yes, they were as good as I expected them to be, but I don’t agree that they were completely dominant. We managed to stick with them for large parts of the game, but the issue was we couldn’t really manage to keep hold of the ball. When they were in possession, they were ruthless. Then again, they’re top of the league and a Championship-ready side. However, I know their Director of Rugby pretty well and even he accepts that whilst they are capable of competing in the Championship, they will still need to sort some issues out if they are to cement their position in that league.”
Was the game further proof that good sides with strength in depth and deep pockets will always prosper, whereas other teams with smaller budgets will always be playing catch-up?
“I’m not so sure about that. Hartpury are a unique team in National 1. They’ve got good staff, great facilities and good resources, and they’ve got the perfect model really because they get access to most of their players from the age of 16. They can then work with them for 5 years and that gives them a distinct advantage over most other teams. Effectively their system and the way it’s applied, is the perfect conveyor belt for creating very good rugby players.”
“As for the rest of the league, well, cash is king. Whoever has the most money has a distinct advantage in terms of player quality. It’s not an ideal situation, but it is what it is, so you have to accept that fact. All you can do if you haven’t got deep pockets is be creative in terms of how you spend your money to best compete with those teams that have. So, with the exception of Hartpury who are a special case; cash in king in National 1.”
What sort of performance are you looking for this weekend when the Blues take on Esher at Priory Park?
“We want to end our National League 1 season with a good performance. With the exception of Hartpury, we’ve played some exceptional rugby over the last 5 or 6 weeks. We’ve shown what we’re more than capable of, and I’d like us to continue that this weekend. It’s the last game of the season, it’s the last game at Priory Park and it’s going to be the last game for a number of players on Saturday. They’ll definitely want to end their season on a high. You could argue we owe Esher one after the first game of the season, but a lot’s happened since then. We’ve just got to go out, concentrate on our performance, enjoy ourselves and give the Priory Park supporters something to cheer about.”