On Saturday Macclesfield 4th travelled away to West Park St Helens in the third round of the cup. Studying the form West Park have not lost at home this year and have only suffered 3 defeats away from home, therefore Macc were under no illusion that this was going to be a tough game.
On arrival it was clear the club house was in the middle of a major refurbishment complete with a skip. Currently the renovation seems only to penetrate skin deep as beyond the corridors glossy with new paint, the arctic changing room showed that there is still much left to do. Skipper Jason Walker arrived with the attractive new playing shirts in the clubs new look. Even though the new shirts are not slim fit like the previous ones the age old issue of sizes was still a problem due to the irregular shape and size of our team.
For the first time in over a month the clouds parted and rays of sun shone onto the pitch as the game began with West Park kicking off.
It was obvious from the outset that Macc had stumbled into rugby league territory as the West Park strategy and style was very much ball in hand and batter forward, ironically similar to what has brought Macc such success this season.
Within the first five minutes a Macc maul was pinned on the far side. As Foster box kicked, one of their forwards came through to block the kick which fortuitously bounced for one of their front row to catch and start a run down the far touchline. Once he had made 10-15 yards he looked behind as if to say “your not expecting me to run all the way, are you?” but as Jason chased him back, no one could stop him once momentum had kicked in and he made it to the corner. Fortunately the West Park boot was less accurate and they missed the conversion.
After this Macc started to settle into the game and their defence became tighter and running game developed which suited the conditions. As Macc made ground West Park gave away a penalty in easy kicking distance and Tony Amos swiftly added 3 points to bring the score to 5 – 3.
Shortly afterwards West Park scored their second try, that also went unconverted. From the restart Macc put pressure on West Park pushing further into the West Park half as the play was evenly balanced between two strong teams. Boz then left the field for running repairs and was temporarily replaced by Eliot Lee. Macc then scored their first try as Rob McCloud made a powerful charge and gave West Park a taste of their own medecine, converted by the reliable boot of Tony Amos. The score was now 10 – 10 and the game was shaping up to be an interesting and close game…could Macc turn over this team where others had failed?
Macc scored a second try before half time, again by Rob McCloud, although unfortunately Tony Amos missed the conversion.
The teams turned around at half-time with Macc leading 15 – 10.
Galvanised by their half time lead Macc came out strongly again pushing into deep into the West Park half and were the better side for the first 20 minutes and after 60 minutes from the base of a ruck came a well worked training park move (Well it would be if the 4ths trained!) with the ball coming out to Tony Amos who “dinked” the ball through behind the West Park players, it was chased and expertly scooped up by Smithy who flicked an inside pass back to Amos who dashed over for a great try. Unfortunately Amos was unable to convert his own try. The score was now 20 – 10 to Macc, and the upset looked distinctly possible.
When Matt Harding left the field the scrum lost some of its power, but the valuable experience of Cheeky Walker was added to the mix.
The game reached a fine balancing point as West Park scored their third try to get within five points of Macc at 20 – 15. Shortly afterwards came the turning point as West Park scored their fourth unconverted try to bring the teams level. In the next West Park attack Smithy came off second best in the tackle and was replaced temporarily by Dan Goltman.
Nick Cooke come on for Ryan Brown on the wing who had another good game with several penetrating runs.
West Park then scored their fifth try that was also unconverted to give them the lead for the first time in the match 25 – 20.
Macc were still fighting hard and taking the game to West Park, but it was not to be as West Park scored their sixth and final try, with the conversion going over to to make the final score 32 – 20.
This was Macc’s first loss since losing by a single point to Broughton Park on 23rd November, and only their second loss since 12th October. Next week Macc 4ths attention returns to the league with a home fixture against Trafford Metrovic at Priory Park. The away fixture played in a full blown storm with thunder and lightening was a 16 – 16 draw, so Macc hope to go one better and get the win.