Cheshire Cup Semi Final
Priory Park, Macclesfield
By Matt Coleridge
Priory Park played host to the first competitive game of the 2017-18 season for the Cheshire Cup holders and National 2 North winners Caldy, and the predecessors of each of those titles, Macclesfield. Caldy fielded a near full strength side as they looked to build some momentum going into what will be a highly competitive National One campaign, while the Blues were without a number of high profile names yet put out a side full of enthusiastic young blood mixed with established faces.
The visitors dominated possession and territory for first half hour, putting together a number of phases, and it only took 4 minutes for the first try to come, a quick tap (all be it taken from a questionable spot) and scrum half Jones ran in from 23 metres. The home side had only one attacking entry to the Caldy 22 in that first half hour and a try came from it, flanker Joe Palmer going over in the corner on 13 minutes, after a strong build up. But the Wirral side continued to prosper with The Blues ill discipline and inability to win their own lineout meant they couldn’t exit their own half for long periods. No less than 9 penalties were conceded in the first half by Macclesfield and the pressure told as the experienced winger Nick Royle held his width and got passed the edge of a narrow Macclesfield defensive line and then Tom Sanders powered over despite the close attention of 3 defenders.
But for an excellent revival in the last 10 minutes of the first period, this match report would be far more morose. The home side camped out in the Caldy 22 for the remainder of the half and despite not taking anymore points, the home fans must have been encouraged with what they saw although a number of chances were spurned.
Half time 7-19 to the Wirral side.
Referee Matt Turvey had a mixed day as communications with his linesmen seemed to be non existant at times, The Blues were unlucky not to win a few more penalties at the breakdown, but he also had to deal with a large amount of appealing from the visitors that was only punished once despite repeated warnings, while having to contend with a scrum that frequently turned and disintegrated.
The Blues’ set piece improved in the second half with the introduction of last year’s Players’ Player of the Year Tom Mantell, Brendan Berry and Charlie Pozniak (Sale Sharks U18’s captain), and this laid the platform for an early chance but Berry was trapped with ball under the posts and the missed opportunity was further highlighted as a scrappy phase of play where possession changed hands a few times ended with Prop Parker splash diving over on 54 minutes (12-24).
The Blues rallied and showed an improved mentality as they seemed to get into their stride despite the scoreline and a Sam Broster try from a great team attack gave the hosts belief they could turn it around on 64 minutes. Unfortunately, that belief was deflated as Caldy’s bench made an important contribution, back row Jones with the simplest of finishes under the posts after numerous carries over the gainline from their forwards into the Macc ’22 (12-31).
Another good spell of pressure from Macclesfield led to substitute scrum half Nick Allsop sniping over on 71 minutes and Director of Rugby Giles Heagerty saw plenty in those last 20 minutes to suggest their attack will be a potent force in National 2 this coming season, as his men threw the kitchen sink at the men in yellow but it was the visitors who rounded off the scoring, scrum half Jones converting the break down the left wing on 77 minutes.
Final score 19-36.
Next Week the real business begins with Wharfedale the visitors in game one of the new National 2 North campaign. It will be an interesting week for the coaching staff as they look to trim the 22 man squad that played today to 20, and assess the contribution of a number of players who have played more second team rugby than first, and determine their involvement going forward. Giles Heagerty (DoR) was in positive mood despite defeat, “… the league starts next week, and we are firmly focused on that. We did some really good things in that game, unfortunately we were also masters of our own demise for the most part. Caldy are a great side, we know that, they were the best side we played 2 years ago and clearly deserved their promotion last year, but we have gifted them a number of points for various reasons.”
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Man of the Match: Caldy – B. Jones (mention should go out to Macclesfield’s – Liam Parfitt).
Lomax 14. Hall 13. Broster 12. Davenport 11. King 10. Barker © 9. Townsend 8. Redfern 7. Thorp 6. Palmer 5. F. Barker 4. Lacey 3. Robinson 2. Nyemba 1. Travis
Replacements: Berry, Mantell, Percival, Pozniak, Parfitt, Allsop, Smith
Dixon 14. Royle, 13. Roberts. 12. Jones, D. 11. Bowners 10. Hayes 9. Jones, B. 8. Cross, 7. Collister 6. Crane 5. Sanders 4. Gerrard 3. Salisbury 2. Stagg 1. Parker
Replacements: Whittaker, Roberts, T. Harris, Powler, Pilgrim, Jones, D. Gosling