Macclesfield were left stunned as Loughborough Students scored two injury-time tries to snatch a 24-31 victory at Priory Park.
Tries from Frankie Barker and Josh Fowles meant the Blues were in front for long periods of the game; however it was Loughborough who came out on top in the relegation scrap.
Director of Rugby and Head Coach Geoff Wappett was disappointed with the late comeback; “We’re conceding points far too easily.
“For an hour we were probably good enough to win the game and then they got a sniff of victory towards the end. I am really annoyed with the way we conceded the final try.
“We had that game lined up with ten minutes to go, so we should have done a better job of closing that game out.”
Macclesfield enjoyed the early possession, as Tom Eaton and Tom Davenport both made a promising break through the centre, only for it to result in a scrum.
Minutes later Davenport hobbled off with a hamstring injury, to be replaced by Chris Townsend.
As the game slowly gathered pace, the Blues scored their first try after 16 minutes, coming from winger Josh Fowles after good link-up play between Eaton, Fowles and returning full-back Jack Moorhouse.
Eaton converted to give Macclesfield an early 7-0 lead.
Ed Stobart then saw yellow for a dangerous tackle, which allowed Loughborough fly-half Stuart Hall to score his first penalty.
Mike Finnemore then gave Blues supporters a cause for concern as he hobbled off after 26 minutes, to be replaced by Cameron Thompson.
Eaton converted a penalty kick close to the Loughborough back line to go 10-3 ahead, however the visitors responded straight away.
Hall scored another two penalties to narrow the gap to just 10-9 with minutes left on the clock in the first half.
As Stobart returned to the field he redeemed himself from his earlier sending off, in the form of a last-ditch tackle to stop an almost certain try.
Hall scored his 4th penalty as the referee drew the half to a close, giving the visitors the edge in a tense 40 minutes that Macclesfield had controlled.
Loughborough Students came out from the break with a bang, as Joe Atkinson scored a converted try one minute into the second half.
At 48 minutes Loughborough’s Jacob Parker saw yellow for stamping, allowing the squad to press forward and put pressure on the visiting defence.
Frankie Barker then scored after breaking through from a scrum high up the pitch to bring the Blues back into contention.
Eaton converted to narrow the gap to just 17-19 as Macclesfield started to dictate play.
Josh Fowles then scored from an excellent team effort, as the ball was switched out to the left for the winger to outmuscle and outpace the defenders.
Captain Eaton stepped up again to score the conversion, giving Blues a 24-19 lead and a glimpse of victory.
As injury-time approached Loughborough started to pile on the pressure, as a powerful driving maul gave them a good field position.
Macclesfield defended desperately against the barrage of attacks, however flanker James Freeman found the gap and equalised for Loughborough.
This only gave Loughborough more fight to snatch a late win, and on the full-time whistle Joseph Burton scored a dramatic late winner to shock the hosts and win 24-31.
Geoff Wappett added after the match; “We were neat enough in the first half but we weren’t clinical enough with our opportunities.
“When we did score it took us three or four attempts at the same opportunity to actually cross the line.
“There were several other chances where if we’d have been a bit more clinical then the final score would have been quite different.
“Going into half time, four penalties down, they’d hardly been our half so that was our own fault really, we’d given the penalties away.
“Tynedale (next week’s opposition) are suffering from injuries pretty much like we are. One mustn’t be too taken with their result against Rosslyn Park, they’re not having a classic season but it’s always a difficult place to go to.
“If we have a good day and they have an average day then we could turn the result around.
“We just have to grit it out and be a little bit smarter than we were today.”
The Blues take on Tynedale away next week, to follow updates throughout the match visit our Twitter page here at https://twitter.com/MaccRUFC