Macc ground out a result in the Cup against a Winnington Park side unrecognisable from the team that lost at Priory Park on 4th January 65 – 14 having arrived on that occasion with 12 men. Whilst Winnington Park were well supplemented with Colts players this time, Macc too showed a number of changes from the previous match. Due to unavailabilities, calls from the 3rd team and Smithy’s folorn attempt at late selection for the British Winter Olympic team by taking a week’s skiing holiday, Skipper Jason Walker faced selection challenges of his own. Fortunately these were resolved by match day, but the team’s spirits were also raised by the sight of a lycra-clad Troy arriving on the touchline complete with clip-on cycling shoes clearly looking for the Priory Park Velodrome! As other spectators will confirm, it was definitely a day for coats and hats rather than lycra shorts!
Macc kicked off up the slope with the advantage of the blustery wind, but with very slippery and muddy ground conditions found it difficult to play tight disciplined rugby. As usual the Macc forwards were dominant in the scrum and Tim Peakman, who had a great afternoon from the base of the scrum, frequently made those critical first five or ten yards to get Macc moving forward across the gainline. However, on many occasions during the game possession was lost when instead of securing the ball in loose mauls or from rucks and setting up good and secure second phase ball, poor passes were attempted that did not always go to hand. Rob McCloud, Streety, Pete Barton and Fergus Green were prominent in the loose taking on the opposition with strong drives around the fringes. In the backs Tony Amos was directing operations and used his boot to good effect to pin back the Winnington Park team with several long kicks. Marshy also had several powerful surges up the centre to keep Macc on the front foot and Tom Bamberger came into the line to good effect.
Macc by no means were having everything their own way and this was a competitive, although very scrappy match. Macc as usual dominated in both the scrum and the lineout, but it became clear that if Winnington Park were able to get the ball to their speedy young wingers Macc would face a stiff challenge out wide. Macc scored first with an unconverted try by Fergus Green, followed five minutes later by a good try by the Winnington Park left wing that was converted to put Winnington Park into a 7 – 5 lead. Macc scored next with a penalty goal by Amos, before Rob McCloud scored a try, converted by Amos to move the score to 15 – 7 to Macc. The final score in the first half came as Tim Peakman made good ground from the base of a set scrum that was moved across the backline for Matt Molt to score on the right wing. Shortly afterwards Peakman was obliged to leave the field with a chest injury and was replaced by Cheeky Walker.
The teams turned around at half-time with Macc leading 20 – 7. Captain Jason Walker made one change to the team bringing Phil Adshead on for Nick Cooke.
Rob Mc Cloud scored his second try early in the second half to take the Macc score to 25 – 7 before Winnington Park scored their second try with a hack through and chase from the halfway line. This was converted to bring Winnington Park closer with the score then at 25 – 14. Captain Jason Walker then had to leave the field with a calf injury and he was replaced shortly afterwards with Tim Peakman’s return to play. Streety was the lucky man to be initiated into the front-row union as he moved to loose head prop. Jason Walker was the picture of anxiety as he stalked the touchline as the quality of play from both sides was not great. Sure enough, it was Winnington Park who scored with an unconverted try to take the score to 25 – 19, and then a few minutes later scored another try to take the score to 25 – 24 with potentially the conversion to give Winnington Park the lead. It was missed from in front of the posts. With a single point in it, both sides raised the tempo, but Macc stretched their small lead to 4 points following a finely judged penalty goal from Amos. A further penalty goal from Amos widened the gap to 7 points at 31 – 24, but with pressure on the Macc line with only a couple of minutes to go, it did seem as though Macc might snatch a draw from the jaws of victory. Fortunately the attack was well defended and Macc won a scrappy and error strewn game to go into the hat for the next round of the Cup to be played on 1st February at home against Crewe 3’s.
Good teams win even when they are not playing at their best. This was one of those games and Macc must raise their standard again when they face Lymm in the league at Priory Park next week. Lymm beat Macc in the previous fixture this season away at Lymm, but currently lie just below Macc in the league.