The Northern Echo Arena was the scene for Macclesfield’s National 2 North title win in 2014 but there was no repeat of that day’s jubilation experienced, this time, despite Macc’s win in the reverse fixture earlier this season.
The early stages of this game were frantic and with the first scrum coming in the 20th minute, the ball had been in play nearly all of that amount. It must have been an exhausting opening to the match for both teams on a slightly sticky pitch.
The North Easterners were in control for much of the first half hour, enjoying the majority of territory and possession, but took nothing from their opening 5 visits to the Macclesfield ’22. The visitors were turning the ball over frequently in order to keep the scores level and even broke out at one point through some slick passing by the back 3 and the as ever mercurial Lewis Barker playing at 12 today.
But the Blues’ couldn’t hold out and in the 23rdm minute, the in form Adam Radwan stepped and outpaced the Cheshire side’s kick chase defence, to touch down in the corner. Gary Law added another 3 points 7 minutes later before a controversial score from James Fitzpatrick extended the home side’s lead to 15-0, with the scrum half initiating the move taking a quick tap penalty that was won at a scrum, when 2 men were still on the floor, which if you know your rules is not allowed. This was just one of a number of baffling decision by referee Hamish Smales, in that first half but Macclesifeld’s luck turned when in the 35th minute they were finally rewarded with a penalty at a scrum in the DMP half and with only their second venture into the opposition’s ’22, the Blues went over from a maul with Ollie Parkinson at the bottom of the pile, on the stroke of half time (15-5).
This is a position the Cheshire side have been in numerous times all season, competitive and in the game at half time, looking to have the first say after half time, but unfortunately the opposite was the case. Darlington came out firing, with 2 quick fire tries straight after the break, firstly from a turnover in their own ’22 and a wide break, the pacey Radwan again the scorer, and then a punch in the stomach for Macclesfield when Tom Eaton’s wide pass was intercepted and in the next phase, Simon Uzokwe, whose work ethic and power must rival Radwan’s searing pace for man of the match, broke through to score under the posts. Disappointingly, the opposition taking advantage of Macc mistakes to score is also a trend of this season.
Much of the remainder of the match was played between the ‘22’s, with the positives for Macclesfield being that they dominated the scrum, winning 5 penalties in this scenario in the day and stealing another and there was even a glimmer of hope when Dave Marwick popped the ball to Nick Allsop to score from a metre out with 65 minutes on the clock, but Darlington’s pace, power and better accuracy in attack put paid to any thoughts of a fightback with 3 tries in the last fiften minutes. Firstly an opportunistic kick and chase from a Macclesfield handling error successfully chased down by outside centre Ben Frankland, then a great first phase carry by Uzokwe gave the home team enough go forward and space to let Radwan sneak in the corner for his hatrick, before that man Uzokwe again, carried and offloaded for Callum Mackenzie to score under the posts rounding off a resounding win.
Darlington just had too much power and pace for Macclesfield today, despite losing the scrum and maul battles.
Macc welcome the youthful Loughborough Students to Priory Park next week, after two disappointing away trips on the bounce. They will have to deal with pacey backs a lot better in order to take anything fro the game but if the forecast is anything to go by the pitch may see to that.