The Blackpool Gazette’s Sports Editor, Andy Moore, caught up with Warren Spragg in mid-week as the squad prepared for a trip to Tynedale on Saturday (ko 3pm). Reproduced courtesy of the Gazette.
Warren Spragg has challenged his Fylde RFC players to play the game they want to at Tynedale tomorrow, and that means getting their discipline right.
Fylde continued to incur the wrath of referees to their cost last weekend, losing at home for the home first time this season as Sheffield Tigers took advantage of a lop-sided 19-10 penalty count and the sinbinning of Matt Garrod to edge a 25-24 victory.
Despite scoring four tries to one and leading by five points with just two minutes remaining, Fylde conceded two crucial late penalties and the faultless boot of Mark Ireland ruined their day.
Spragg said: “We went into the game knowing Sheffield would be the strongest side we had faced so far. They were battle-hardened after playing four aspiring top-six sides.
“And although we kept them away from our line for most of the game, we were a bit sloppy on our discipline and we came up against a kicker who scored seven out of seven.”
Spragg refused to use any inconsistency in referees’ interpretations as an excuse. He added: “You have to take the referee out of the game. If you allow yourself to become fixated on the referee, you lose focus on your own game.
“It comes down to decision-making and whether risks are worth taking. If you go into the tackle to make a turnover when you are eight points up, you have to ask yourself if this is a risk you need to take.
“We reviewed the game on Tuesday and hopefully there is now a better shared understanding.”
That applies to attack as well as defence, though it’s easy with hindsight to criticise players for turning down straightforward penalty goals and running the ball instead.
And Spragg certainly doesn’t want to coach such attacking instincts out of players. He explained: “The game is about the players. They make decisions and are accountable. I have to get the best shared understanding among the players that I can, so they can predict what each other will do as a team in the course of a game.
“Adam Lanigan took a quick tap when we had a penalty in front of the posts. I’m not going to say to him that you can’t make that decision.
“Players have to understand their decisions have consequences but I want my team to play with no fear.
“ As soon as you encourage them to play conservatively they can go into their shell, which is not the way we want to play. The magic comes from making the big plays and that’s what we want to see.”
It was only Lanigan’s second game as the scrum-half continues to deputise for the injured Cam Crampton.
Spragg added: “Adam is growing into the role well. He has been a great surprise to us and is doing the basics right.
“But Cam is being mega-professional in his recovery and will hopefully be back in the next week or two, though he isn’t out running with the guys in training yet.”
Fylde will also be without the experience of captain Adam Lewis for a few more weeks as the prop gets over a knee injury.
Spragg said: “It looks like ligament damage but we still aren’t 100 per cent sure of the extent. He could be back in three weeks or eight.”
After facing opponents new to them in recent weeks, Fylde head to a familiar hunting ground tomorrow to face Tynedale, though Spragg admits he is uncertain what to expect of north-east hosts who are still awaiting a win.
He said: “Tynedale are strong at home, and after relegation they were throwing the ball around last season.
“It was very different when I played and they gave you a difficult, physical game, so I’m not sure what we’ll get from them. They have been close this season with key players injured. I don’t know how near to full-strength they will be, but we have to get the discipline right and play the game we want to play.”