Macclesfield beat 6th place Fylde 29-28 at Priory Park in the final game of the season, however the four-point victory was not enough to guarantee safety in the National League One as the Blues drop to 14th place.
19 points in penalties and a converted try from Ashley-Platt Hughes, as well as tries from Matt King and Josh Fowles helped the Blues come out victorious in the North-West derby.
Head Coach and Director of Rugby Geoff Wappett was disappointed with the overall outcome: “At any other time in the season that would have been a good win, it’s only due to the day and the circumstances that it sits a bit heavy.
“It’s another game where three tries have been scored, we’ve had too many three try games this season; we have to address that, we have to increase our scoring powers.”
The Blues went on the attack straight from kick-off, and after five minutes they took the lead from a penalty by winger Ashley Platt-Hughes.
A good run along the touchline by Dean Williams to set up Josh Fowles in the right corner gave Macclesfield their first try after nine minutes. The conversion was off-target to go 8-0 up.
Fylde retaliated and kept Macclesfield pinned back in their 22, however good defending led to a kicked clearance by Dave Marwick, and a penalty switched possession in Fylde’s half.
Another three penalties by Platt-Hughes gave Macclesfield a 17-0 advantage with 15 minutes until half-time as the Blues continued to press.
Fylde enjoyed several attacking chances coming from Tom Burtonwood and Ben Rath; however the Blues were looking up for it and defended well.
With five minutes until the break hooker Tom Cruse did well to dodge the last man and run to the top left corner, who then slipped the ball to Platt-Hughes for his try.
The Blues had to defend desperately just before half-time as Fylde searched for their first points, however a good clearance by Matt Rhodes relieved the pressure and the referee blew for half-time with Macclesfield leading 24-0.
Soon into the second half Ben Rath scored down the wing for Fylde, Chris Johnson was on-target with his conversion attempt.
The Blues came back with an immediate response, as full-back Matt King crashed over the line to continue his impressive try-scoring run.
A converted try for Johnson brought Fylde closer to narrowing the gap, and after a yellow card for Macclesfield’s Chris Jones the visitors were able to press forward and score another converted try, this time coming from Paul Arnold.
As Jones returned to the field prop Gavin Woods was sent to the sin bin with ten minutes remaining to give the Blues the difficult task of holding on for the remainder of the match.
Oliver Viney scored the final try of the match, the conversion bringing the score to 29-28, and the Blues defended well to hold on to the narrow lead to finish the game with a four-point victory.
“I thought we did a good job in the first half,” Wappett added; “we took our chances and we used the wind reasonably well.
“We were playing with (Tom) Eaton at fly-half who was still struggling with a groin injury; he couldn’t run as well and he couldn’t kick, so we had to organise things differently to normal.
“We got two good tries in the first half, Ashley kicked his goals, and if anything it’s a shame we couldn’t add to that considering how much field position and possession we had.
“In the second half we knew it was going to be difficult, but we just turned the ball over a few too many times; we should have looked after the ball a bit longer.
“There were times when we’d look very promising, and then there were times where we’d spill the ball. The two yellow cards were damaging.
“That was damaging to play with 14 men against that outfit; for ten minutes you’re hanging on, and then another ten minutes as we received our second card.
When asked about the relegation, Wappett said: “It’s not the end of the world. Whatever happens we’re not going to be dramatically different next year; we’ve got the majority of the team signed under contract for next year, and I’ve already signed two or three good young players.
“I’ve also got two or three young players who are going to be coming up from within the club. I have every intention of bouncing straight back up next year.
“We’re going into that league with players who have all had three years experience of being in the National League One, which is immensely better, faster and more physical than the one that we’re going to face next year.
“It’s important that we keep our feet on the ground, we have to work hard for it but it’s definitely on the cards, I would be extremely disappointed if we’re not back up there within a year.”