Macclesfield will have had high hopes for this one, with Blaydon having not won away for 2 years with both sides battling relegation
The Blues started the better, spending 26 minutes in the Blaydon half, and went ahead early on with a driving maul putting Ryan Parkinson over on 3 minutes. Quick starts have been few and far between at Priory park this season so scoring so early put the crowd in buoyant mood. Blaydon repeatedly had their backs to the wall, as the home side turned down 3 points in a bid to chase a try bonus point but despite dominating the territory, multiple chances were spurned and Macclesfield will be disappointed to have only picked up 7 points in that spell. Too often handling errors put an end to the Cheshire side’s attacks within sight of the try line. The Blues were playing an exciting brand of rugby, implemented by Director of Rugby Giles Heagerty, but perhaps a lack of confidence from recent results meant the type of offload that came off so regularly last season did not stick, with uncharacteristic mistakes from the selfless Liam Parfitt and hardworking Franky Barker prevented the home side from adding to their points tally..
A series of soft penalties, from Macclesfield’s perspective, allowed Blaydon to eventually escape their own half and get a foothold with their first attack on the half hour, through a penalty from their fly half Max Connon’s boot lifting their spirits. Now with their confidence restored, the North East side grew into the game, and a spell just before half time where they were camped in the Blues’ ’22 culminated in the side in red twice going close but without reward. Macclesfield managed to hold out to half time and went in ahead 7-3, but their resistance came at a price losing Lock Dave Marwick to the bin for a high tackle.
The big talking point and the turning point in the match came shortly after the break, when flanker Niall Davidson, who has had a frustrating season battling injuries, was red carded for a dangerous clear-out, specifically not using his arms and making contact with the opponents head with his shoulder, and for the second time this season a Macclesfield player headed for an early bath. When the referee has the benefit of the video to reflect on his division he may feel it was a harsh decision, but with the decision made Macc were down to 13 and facing a daunting task. Blaydon scored almost immediately after, on 47 minutes, through prop Andrew Foster. Cheshire’s highest ranked National League team had good spells of possession with one of last season’s star players Lewis Barker, returning from long term injury, looking healthy on the wing. The Priory Park crowd must have suspected it was not to be their day when the energetic Sale Shark’s loanee Curtis Langdon, who is due to hook up with the England U20’s for the 6 Nations next week, was forced to leave the field with hip injury not long after being introduced, just when the hooker’s physical presence would have been welcome and then an uncharacteristic miss from the kicking tee by full back Tom Morton saw a much needed 3 points squandered.
In truth, the Blues struggled to break Blaydon down, with the Tyneside team starting to win physical, territory and kicking battle, as well as providing more gain line threat in attack. The pressure eventually told when flanker Keith Laughlin went over from 9 metres out and the hardworking flanker Josh Redfern unable to prevent his advance, in the 74th minute.
The Blues did their best to retrieve the game turning over a late scrum just outside the Blaydon ’22 and launched an attack in pursuit of the losing bonus point and fly half Tom Eaton actually appeared to generate a half line-break but prop Elliott Millar-Mills could not keep hold of his offload, which summed up the Macc’s afternoon.
Trailing their nearest rivals by 7 points at the foot of the National one table with 11 games to go, it’s an uphill task for Macclesfield from here now.
Tries: Parkinson (3)
Tries: Foster (47), Laughlin (74)
Star man: Jason Smithson (Blaydon Number 8)
TEAMS (15-9, then 1-8)
MACCLESFIELD: Morton, Broster, Brierley, Smith, King, Eaton, Allsop and Mantell, Moss, Robinson, Marwick, F. Barker, Redfern, Parfitt, Parkinson (c)
Replacements: Langdon, Millar-Mills, Gadd, Davidson, L. Barker.
BLAYDON: Cooney, Grimes, Bramwell, Small, Wilson, Horsfall and T. Davidson, Bell, Foster, Wearmouth, A. Davidson, Laughlin, J. Davidson, Smithson
Replacements: Beckwith, Morris, Archibald, Baggett, Connon