The first loss of the season came on Saturday as the Lions entertained Preston Grashoppers at Priory Park. The Lions had been building up to the first big test of the season and were unfortunate to lose.
In once again perfect conditions for rugby the Lions couldn’t have asked for a better start to the game, the Lions kicked off and immediately won back possession, they turned the ball over and a fine pass enabled the Macclesfield backs to expose an overlap and Macey finished well in the corner, 5-0 to the Lions after the first play of the game. It was clear that Macclesfield were intent on playing some good running rugby and during the first half they were creating many a chance. Preston closed the gap with a penalty and then another not long after took them 5-6 up, however Macclesfield continued to play some good rugby. The forwards had the upper-hand in the scrum and when Preston did have the ball they were met by a brick wall of defence, Macclesfield were exposing holes in the Preston backline and it wasn’t long before King, who had looked dangerous every time he got the ball, superbly finished underneath the posts, the conversion took the Lions into a 12-6 lead.
Just before the half time whistle Preston managed a try in the corner, the conversion missed and the half time score was 12-11 in favour of the Lions. Macclesfield knew that if they played the way they had in the first half then the game would be theirs, it was to be a tough 40 minutes.
Unfortunately the Lions struggled in the second half. Preston did not produce any spectacular rugby but they did make fewer errors. However King was still looking extremely dangerous and it wasn’t long before Preston kicked the ball to King and he ran through about 10 players to again touch down under the sticks, the score and conversion gave the Lions a lift. After the score the game turned scrappy, mistakes from both teams became frequent and the penalty count started to increase quite rapidly. Preston continued to apply pressure to the Lions defence and as the game progressed Macclesfield’s fitness started to lack, eventually Preston broke away and scored in the corner, the conversion took Preston to within a point of the Lions and the game was in for a tight finish.
Unfortunately the game did not improve and the mistakes and scrappy play continued, Preston were awarded a penalty in front of the posts and it took them into a 19-21 lead. The Lions started to panic and were running out of time to gain a score, they were pressing hard and worked themselves well up the field but were found lacking in the final quarter of the pitch. With ten minutes to go Preston sealed the game with a converted try in the corner, they turned the ball over and moved it wide to the winger who finished well. The Lions worked hard for the last ten minutes but were unable to make a score. The game finished 19-28.
The performance was a definite improvement on recent weeks and the Lions played with endeavour for the majority of the 80 minutes it was the Lions who lost the game rather than Preston winning the game. There were also some positives through the performance of King who showed he has the ability to finish from more or less anywhere on the field and Baxter who, after his MOM performance on the wing last week proved he is even better at scrum half. Next week the Lions travel to Caldy in what will be another tough encounter and one which the Lions must win to get back on track.
Man of the Match: Matt King
Team: Rodman, Taylor, Davenport, Smith, Robinson, Thorpe, Laing, Clowes, Baxter, Roberts (capt), Board, Dewars, Hardwick, Macey, King.
Reserves: Taylor J, Sodha, Macey
Next week the Lions travel to Caldy