Matt O’Regan’s late converted try proved to be the difference in a tense 16-13 victory against Coventry at Priory Park on Saturday.
Captain Tom Eaton was on-target with all his kicks to contribute 11 points to the score-line to make it six wins in row for the Blues, putting them one point behind 13th place Wharfedale.
Despite an excellent game from Coventry’s full-back and kicker Clifford Hodgson, the visitors failed to hold onto the lead they had held for the majority of the match.
Macclesfield went on the attack from kick-off, Mike Finnemore coming close down the right wing in the first five minutes after good attacking play from Dean Williams and Tom Mantell.
Hodgson proved early on just how influential he is as Coventry’s kicker with an impressive kick into touch resulting in a lineout close to Macclesfield’s goal line, and five minutes later was able to convert a penalty from 30 yards to go 3-0 up.
After 19 minutes Coventry flanker Jamie Harrop was penalised for a foul on Eaton, who levelled the match with the resulting penalty.
Coventry’s best chance came soon after as the visitors outnumbered the Blues on the right wing as the ball was switched out wide, however a bad pass from Gregory Evans to winger Tom Harris allowed Macclesfield to get behind the ball and stop the threat.
However Coventry’s next attacking play paid off as Ed Styles’ kicked clearance was blocked, allowing Hodgson to catch the ball in space and score down by the posts, his conversion making the score 10-3.
The visitors continued to press and their next chance came as centre Heath Stevens carried the ball well to break past several players, who passed a high ball over a Blues defender to Dan Wright who was brought down by Tom Cruse with a good tackle.
Macclesfield had several chances late in the first half after Matt Owen’s run through the centre gained 30 yards of field position, Tom Mantell receiving the ball and carrying it well as momentum changed in the Blues favour.
Matt Rhodes and Tom Eaton then linked up well together to nearly score down by the posts, however Coventry were able to keep tight at the back to deny the home side a try before half time.
One minute into the second half Clifford Hodgson scored another penalty to give Coventry a 13-3 advantage.
Important tackles from Ed Styles and Dave Marwick helped stop attacks from building up, and as the ball turned over Macclesfield went back on the attack, Cruse and Elliot Brierley looking threatening going forward.
Back to back penalties from Tom Eaton at the 59th and 61st minute narrowed the score line to just 13-9, giving the Blues hope of taking a win.
As the home crowd got behind the Blues, Macclesfield continued to press and search for the one try it would take to give them the lead, and after 76 minutes Coventry prop Bronson Ross was given a yellow for not moving away.
The Blues took advantage of the extra man and in one of the last attacks of the game, centre Matt O’Regan dived across the line to score the Blues first try and take the lead for the first time the match.
Eaton’s conversion brought the score to 16-13 and one minute later the whistle went for full-time, giving Macclesfield an important four-point victory.
Macclesfield’s Director of Rugby and Head Coach Geoff Wappett was delighted with result, as well as the support shown by the home crowd: “I thought the spectators were really good on Saturday, the Macc crowd really got behind the boys and showed a lot of passion and emotion and need to do the same next Saturday.
“I’ve always said you have to play right to the final whistle, and I thought we did deserve to win, albeit leaving it late.
“I thought in the first 20 minutes we were stronger than them and created one or two good chances, but after we made that error and conceded seven pretty soft points, I thought it affected us badly and helped them.
“In the second half they started conceding penalties and Tom (Eaton) did well to convert those chances.
“I thought it was a great pass to Matt O’Regan for the late try that put him into a bit of space, his little kick and chase was really well done as he was being chased by two defenders.
“Tom was cool as a cucumber once again to convert, so with the try being so late it gives very little opportunity for the opposition to get back at you.
“I don’t think we’ve played at our best yet, we’ve got a lot to still deliver on. It’s nice to think that there’s still some left in the tank. The lads know that, that there is more in there and one day it will all come out.”
Speaking about next week’s game against Fylde, Wappett added: “Their home form is considerably better than their away form, but they’re a good side and they have a number of very good players, so you have to respect the potential in their team.
“Frankie Barker will be back, Ed Stobart is fit again, as well as Alan Marsh, so all in all those three initially will make a difference to any side.”
Next week the Blues take on Fylde at home, if you can’t make it down to Priory Park for the 3.00pm kick-off, follow the updates throughout the match here: https://twitter.com/MaccRUFC.
15 – Ed Styles, 14 – Matt King, 13 – Elliot Brierley, 12 – Matt O’Regan, 11 – Josh Fowles, 10 – Tom Eaton, 9 – Matt Rhodes, 1 – Gavin Woods, 2 – Tom Cruse, 3 – Rikki Stout, 4 – Tom Mantell, 5 – Dean Williams, 23 – Dave Marwick, 7 – Mike Finnemore, 8 – Matt Owen, Bench – 16 – Dave Blackwell, 17 – Jonathan Kenny, 18 – Chris Jones, 19 – Tom Davenport, 20 – Chris Townsend