Macclesfield would have expected to have come to Brewery Lane in Huddersfield and swept aside last years’ title winning promotees and unfortunately that may well be the accusation levelled against them from some corners.
The home side, and crowd, enjoyed the majority of possession in the first period with Macclesfield not escaping their own half for 20 odd minutes, surviving multiple Red Zone attacking entries by Huddersfield and the visitors’ scramble defence was very positive. At times tempers flared and the Cheshire side had to put up with some ugly tactics at the break down, with their hosts’ use of their feet – the Huddersfield Loose Head likely to find himself in hot water later in the week after a stamp on Billy Robinson.
Elliot Knight came close to breaking the deadlock following a decisive break by flanker Lewis Bradley and some neat passing exchanges but the Macclesfield defence held firm.
It was very much against the run of play when full back Charlie Reed, making his first start after he burst on to the scene in the latter stages of the win over Blaydon last week, slotted a 40m penalty to take the lead 3-0 in the 25th minute.
The Yorkshire outfit might have been kicking themselves after all their time in the Macc ’22, only to find themselves behind but managed to get over the line with their next attempt after some unforced errors by the Blues’ pegged themselves back. Richard Piper the scorer on 32 minutes in their 5th entry to the Blues ’22.
The Blues had had little ball and even less territory to that point with their hosts edging the kicking game, but the last 8 minutes of the half belonged to Macc, who managed to string a few phases together, as the momentum and penalty count began to tilit their way. A 5m maul was foiled as Franky Barker appeared to have the ball knocked out of hand by one of his own players and when Huddersfield did get their hands on the pill all they could do was clear their lines allowing the exciting prospect that is Charlie Reed a chance to run it back, but even he could not make an impression and the lads learnt the same lesson as Huddersfield did in the first 20 minutes – there are no points for territory and possession. Half time 5-3.
The Blues came out from the break appearing to be reinvigorated, dominating the early stages and making the extra man tell, as centre Tom Owen had been binned before half time. Another 5m maul was foiled before an champagne rugby style 8 phase attack saw the Priory Park club take the lead again. Reed and Hall combining on the kick return from their own half to get the lads moving and it was Hall who popped up on the end of the move as the Blues showed good patience to strike. Reed added another 3 with the visitors’ next visit to the opposition ’22 and the men in Black and Grey appeared to be elevating up through the gears.
If you followed Macclesfield’s run to the title the last time they were in National 2 then you would remember multiple cases of the champions that year getting in front and pulling away, so perhaps too many of the players were relying on history to repeat itself.
However, that proved not to be the case. Huddersfield composed themselves, re-captured their first half form and finished the match the stronger. Coach Gaz Lewis had introduced some personnel changes to bite back immediately on 55 minutes, through Lewis Bradley and kicker, no. 8 West, landed the touch line conversion cutting the deficit was cut to a single point (13-12).
Huddersfield dominated the scrum in the final quarter and when Macclesfield were penalised for a scrummage offence on 70 minutes West’s kick from 35 yards out restored their lead 15-12. Try as they might The Blues struggled to string many phases together; secure any significant territory through their kicking game and seemed incapable of making the kind of breaks they had against Blaydon last week perhaps missing their majestic talisman Lewis Barker, who was running the water today while nursing an injury. A final try by Nick Sharpe wrapped up the win after being out-muscled in a succession of scrummages down their left wing made the result safe.
It’s a disappointing result in a game Macclesfield would have been hoping to collect maximum points from. The injury table is pretty full currently, especially in the props which has meant Billy Robinson and Brendan Berry were forced to play 80 minutes each for a second week running and Captain Ryan Parkinson would be a welcome sight in the squad with the forwards looking a little out muscled this week. Leicester Lions are the visitors to Prioriy Lane next week, The Blues will have to be better.
Coaches’ Reaction – Giles Heagerty (Macclesfield Blues’ Director of Rugby):
“I think you have probably got to give Huddersfield their just desserts, they had a game plan, and I think they executed that fairly well. When you spend the best part of 30 minutes in the first half defending then somebody is doing something right, somewhere, and certainly the back end of the second half we really went off the reservation of what we were trying to do and that really put us under some duress that we didn’t need. Was it a poor performance? I think certainly in areas of the game we were decidedly second best but we have to give credit to Huddersfield.”