Macclesfield were unable to cause an upset as they were beaten 34-13 away against league leaders Ealing Trailfinders on Saturday.
Despite the one-sided score-line, the Blues held onto possession for large periods of the second half and Director of Rugby and Head Coach Geoff Wappett claimed his side “deserved a bonus point.”
Elliot Brierley scored Macclesfield’s only try early in the first half to give the Blues a 10-7 lead after ten minutes, however Ealing’s pace proved to be too much and the Londoners went on to put five tries past the Blues.
Captain Tom Eaton put Macclesfield ahead after four minutes with an accurate penalty kick, and even in the first few minutes of the match they were already showing signs of improvement from their last game against Old Albanians, three weeks ago.
One factor was the return of the 7ft forward Dean Williams back into the second row, making an instant impact after being ruled out for several months with a knee injury.
Possession turned over several times with both sides defending well, however the Blues had their first scare five minutes in as Brierley was caught with possession behind the goal line and was tackled before he could clear the ball.
The resulting scrum gave Ealing the field advantage to find their first try, coming from Sam Shires. Centre Tom Wheatcroft scored the conversion to go 7-3.
Macclesfield hit back straight away as Brierley punished an Ealing mistake high up the field, intercepting a pass and scoring near the posts to give him his sixth try of the season, Eaton was on-target for Macc to take back the lead.
The game quietened after a frenetic first ten minutes as both sides settled into the match. Both sides enjoyed a series of chances that only came close.
It wasn’t until after 20 minutes that Ealing winger Andrew Henderson added to the scoreboard, his run too quick for Macc’s defence and he found the gaps down the left wing.
Wheatcroft converted to make the score 14-10. The Blues tried to hold Ealing at bay after the whistle as the home side attacked again; however they broke though again ten minutes before half time, this time coming from Peter Hodgkinson.
Winger Sam Wardingley found himself one-on-one with Jack Moorhouse down the left-hand side and despite a huge tackle from Moorhouse, he was able to offload the ball at the last second to Hodgkinson, who dived over the line to finish the move.
Macclesfield came close near to the end of the first half, several chances high up the field were desperately defended by Ealing and the Blues came closest after a driving maul collapsed and left the spectators wondering if the try had been scored.
The referee blew for a penalty in Macc’s favour, and the resulting scrum was turned over and cleared, much to the relief of the home crowd.
However the hard work did not go entirely unrewarded, as Eaton was able to score a penalty kick just before the whistle went for half-time.
The fly-half wasn’t as fortunate in the opening few minutes of the second half, his penalty attempt from afar came close but missed the goal posts.
The Blues kept hold of the ball and probed Ealing’s defence for a way through, however were often blocked and forced to switch the ball to try again.
After 50 minutes of play some fresh players were brought on, as Alan Marsh and Martin Kent came on to replace Billy Robinson and Mike Finnemore, who have both only just come back from injury at the end of December.
Benjamin Ward, Ealing’s fly-half, came close with a chance down the left wing but was tackled into touch just before the goal-line.
Try-scorer Sam Shires then saw yellow after 60 minutes, giving the momentum back to the Blues to search for their first points of the second half.
Ealing stayed strong at the back, and once Shires returned to the field they hit back on the attack. Wheatcroft scored a penalty after 70 minutes to go 29-13.
Alan Marsh gave supporters a cause for concern after coming off near the end of the match after dislocating a finger, and could be out for a few weeks.
At the full-time whistle Ealing had one final attack, switching the ball out to the right high up the field after a fast attack. Quick passing and being outnumbered was too much to defend against and Shires was the one to score. The conversion was off-target to bring the final score to 34-13.
Despite the result, Geoff Wappett was pleased with the confidence and effort shown from the players: “I was really pleased with our performance; I thought the final score was ridiculously flattering really.
“We can build on that performance, because we’ve got a series of games coming up that we are more than capable of getting some points from.
“We gave as good as we got, and our approach work, our figure and work ethic was really good. I said to the boys; it’s a new year and we can make things happen.
“There’s no doubt about it that we have to start scoring and we’re getting a bit shy when we’re getting into the last 15 yards, there were two or three occasions where we should have done better and turned it into points.”
Speaking about Dean Williams’ return, Wappett said: “When you’ve got players like Dean, the contribution he makes and the confidence he gives players around him is fantastic. Considering that was his first game I thought it was a strong one and he played the full 80 minutes.
“I thought Elliot Brierley has come on enormously and continuously getting better every time he plays. I thought Billy Robinson has been making a massive contribution, considering he’s only just come back from a series of injuries.
“The one thing about it was that it was a good performance from across the board, our tackling was so much better, the team were unrecognisable from the performance we had at Old Albanians.
“I’m very confident about playing Cinderford next week, our confidence should be high, and our expectation should be high.”
Next week Macclesfield take on Cinderford at home for a 3.00pm kick-off, make sure to make it down to Priory Park to cheer on the Blues! If you can’t make it, follow the updates throughout the match at our Twitter account here: https://twitter.com/MaccRUFC