Chester 25 – 22 Macclesfield
Hare Lane, Chester
9th September 2017
By Matt Coleridge
The Blues were fresh from a convincing home victory over Wharfedale on opening day, where as Chester had suffered a heavy defeat away at Tynedale so the men in red were keen to to get some points on the board. However, it was the visiting side who took the lead with their first attack, Sam Broster touching down in the corner finishing a nice move.
But jubilation was short lived as the home side took over and dominated the remainder of the half as the Blues appeared to be out skilled and out enthused, a stylish brand of offloading and running rugby put into effect. Three tries were run in by the home side and ex-Sale FC fly half Liam McGovern kicked an extra 3 points to lead 22-5 with 35 minutes on the clock. Sean Green finished from a Mike Craven offload’ Andy Baston’s powerful break fed centre Freeman Payne and Ross White also got on the score sheet.
It was only when Billy Robinson’s (who had to play all 80 minutes) audacious offload out of the tackle was latched onto by Brendan Berry, who broke through the Chester line and a blend of patience and power by the Macc forwards led to the evergreen Chris Jones touching down. The Blues at least 100% for Red Zone conversions, 2 out of 2.
That score meant it was 22-12 at half time, and gave the visitors something to build on in the second, which could not have been more diverse from the first. Giles Heagerty described this as the game of two halves and I doubt anyone in the ground could dispute that statement. After the break The Blues spent 49% of their possession in the Chester ’22, as wave after wave assaulted the home try line. A number of driving mauls were foiled as the Chester forwards repeatedly timed their sack to perfection and defended what felt like endless phases, with penalty after penalty being conceded but no Macclesfield points accumulated. Referee Bennet clearly hadn’t read the script, contentiously adjudging Franky Barker to be holding on despite the Ford, the Chester number 8, appearing to go off his feet from the side and not allowing Barker to play the ball, just short of the line, and then when Broster appeared to sithe through the home kick chase defence Nico Nyemba was adjudged to have taken out a man off the ball despite that man not appearing to be near enough to tackle Broster. The home fans would say good call no doubt, one of those you are happy to take but might protest if it was against you.
The visitors ate away at the Chester lead, with a try created by full back James Hampson making his first start for the club, and finished by Tom Davenport, youth and experience combining. Then Danny Lomax slotted 3 points from the tee to tie the game 22-22.
Another interesting referee decision, but equally questionable tactical decision by the lively Sam Broster led to a penalty under the sticks which McGovern put away with ease to lead 25-22 with 14 minutes to play.
The game ultimately culminated in an incredible 16 phase attack from the Priory park team’s own line, with numerous half breaks and gainline carries as the lads rallied to attempt the snatch the win. They had worked their way just short of the line and Nyemba broke the line to go under the sticks to put the travelling fans into raptures, only for Bennett to bring play back for a forward pass by Dave Marwick. Having watched it over and over I still cant tell you if it was the right decision.
What is for sure is that the lads really dug deep in the second half, and the blend of old heads and youthful exuberance were equal in their refusal to give up. It might have been easy to float out of the game but our boys did anytihng but, and with the likes of Ryan Parkinson and Lewis Barker missing, the Blues on the pitch gave an outstanding account of themselves in that second period.
Coaches’ Reaction (Giles Heagerty):
“It really was the cliché game of 2 halves I think, we had game plan but it took us 40 minutes to start executing it and its one of those funny ones where you score very early on in the game and it becomes a bit of a curse, and maybe we took our foot off the gas a little bit. You have to say that Chester were obviously coming off the back of a hiding last week, they had a bit about them, they got in the game and we were far too passive defnsivley we missed far too many tackles and we just capitulated a little bit I think, for those first 40, but you have got to say you could see through out the back end of the half we started to get back in the game. We talked at half time, regrouped a bit and second half we came out and executed things…well, almost perfectly.”