A hat trick of tries for Sheffield scrum half Alex Drage was not enough to earn his side a victory as the Tigers went down 21 – 20 to Macclesfield at Priory Park.
The Tigers took an early lead after a flurry of penalties gave them good field position and Tom Outram slotted an easy three points.
The Blues struggled to get into the game but 12 minutes in centre Tom Davenport breezed through some weak Sheffield defence to score under the sticks. The conversion gave Macclesfield the lead.
Midway through the first half the visitors were awarded a penalty on halfway. Scrum half Alex Drage took a quick tap and caught the defence unaware, he raced through to go over in the corner and regain the lead for his side.
The Blues were dominant in the scrum all day with prop Tom Mantell giving his opposite number, Adam Smith, a real workout. Approaching the half hour mark, the referee sin binned Smith for repeatedly infringing at scrum time.
With two minutes to go in the first 40, Drage crossed for his second after a powerful driving maul from 10 metres out, to extend the lead. But a wonderful try from Matt King, that involved good work from centres Davenport and Elliot Brierley, meant the scores at half time were 14 – 15.
The second half stuttered and there was no flow to the game because the breakdown had become a mess. The referee was making some confusing decisions both ways and was very quick with the whistle, which didn’t help the continuity of the game.
Just past the hour mark the hosts were awarded a penalty try. Their scrum had been dominant all day and when the Sheffield scrum collapsed on their own line, referee Brendan McGaffney lost patience and went under the sticks.
Drage made it interesting with 10 minutes to go when he completed his hat trick, again the catch and drive was the method, with backs and forwards getting involved.
The score made it a nervy final few minutes for both sets of supporters and the match could have gone either way. The game ended in unusual circumstances, Sheffield gained possession and Drage, obviously confused as to what the score was, put the ball out of play thinking his side had won, a costly mistake.
The Blues ran out 21 – 20 winners and are top of the league heading into the New Year.
Macclesfield failed to get the bonus point and with Darlington Mowden Park putting 50 points on Hull, the gap at the top is now just two points. Stourbridge also earned a bonus point, which means they are now just four points behind, it’s very tight at the top of the league.
The league now takes a break for Christmas; the Blues’ next fixture is on January 4th when they travel to face Hull who are dangling just above the relegation trap door.