The blues travelled the short hop to South Manchester to meet their local rivals and old foe, who are in contrasting form having narrowly missed out on promotion to National 1 last year and had a big recruitment drive in the summer attracting some glittering names to the club. While the Blues have lost 4 on the bounce Sale sit in 5th coming off the back of a win at home to Hinkley and a nail biting 7-5 defeat to Tynedale last week. The Blues looked a bit more like their old selves last week in attack against Sheffield Tigers scoring 7 tries but unfortunately the lively Tigers midfield took advantage of some defensive frailties. Liam Parfitt captained the side after valiant recent performances and Max Smith’s horrific leg break.
For 39 minutes the first half was a bit of a non event especially as it was a local derby. Sale made the most of their early territorial advantage picking up 6 points from fly half Chris Johnson’s boot. The Blues fought back and had a 5 minute spell of territory which yielded 3 points from Lewis Barker, but perhaps Macc will feel they should have taken more from that visit to the opposition 22 on 19 mins. There was only really one break to speak of when former Blue Jack Moorhouse picked and jumped through a ruck but Lewis Barker hunted him down which surely saved a try.
Macclesfield clearly had come in to this game with a better looking approach to exits and game management, and defended very well for extensive numbers of phases with out looking too troubled. The bulk of the game was played in the midfield and there wasn’t much for the fans to chew on other than the kicking battle which was a stalemate in the first period.
The Blues seemed to have the edge at the scrum, Billy Robinson and Brendan Berry pushing back Birchall and Pope regularly but in truth, the line out was a mess for both sides. Macclesfield had won only 2 from10 at half time, having been repeatedly picked off and didn’t seem to learn lessons by calling to the same spot, and Sale had only one 2 from 7 with the referee adjudicating that there had been a number of not straight arrows.
And with talk of the referee we come to this weeks refereeing…well lets call it what it is, balls up. Matt Turvey hadn’t had the best of starts to the day having shown up late so both captains had to break off from their respective warm ups ten minutes before kick off to do the toss, and then for the second of Johnson’s 3 pointers it was determined that Barker had not rolled away quick enough even though he bounced and reloaded and no ruck was ever formed. So bearing this and the fact that the Blues have been on a terrible run of luck in refereeing decisions in mind, those of us in the stands shouldn’t have been so surprised that not one of the 3 officials witnessed the swinging arm from home lock Gaz Rawlings as he entered a ruck, and when prop Brendan Berry attempted a counter ruck against him he was greeted with a punch in the face from the same opponent. Turvey gave a breakdown penalty against Macc and 3 phases later Sale went over in the corner. If Rawlings of Turvey take to the field in N2N next week it will raise questions about the disciplinary system.
This is the latest in a long line of officiating errors as fans will recall thus enforcing the feeling that when things aren’t going your way they really don’t go your way – anyway rant over.
13-3 to the home side at half time
Johnson began the second half pretty much where he left off as the condition deteriorated, kicking a pen on 54 mins (16-3). The teams were struggling to control the ball which was more like a bar of soap, and the game descended into a bit of a ten man game which to be fair, Chris Johnson seemed to revel in. His constant nudging the ball into the spaces left full back Charlie Reed wondering where on earth to stand as he could not cover every blade of grass required. Johnson struck again on 64 minutes after a scrum pen was won by the Sale front row which was far stronger with Oli Longmore at hooker.
When the Blues did manage to force a pen from the kick off and get some territory in the home sides’ all their hard work was foiled by who else but the officials. Rawlings had been yellow card for an intention knock on at the line out and from the Blues scrum Sam Moss clearly powered over and put the ball down (see BluesTV highlights for a slow mo) but was ruled out by the linesman for a knock on. 19-10 with 13 minutes left on the clock it was game on. This decision appeared to deflate Macclesfield slightly, as despite spending a further 5 minute spell in the Sale ’22 they were unable to take anything away and Chris Johnsons’ kicking lesson resumed until full time.
Another loss for the Blues but a far more encouraging one, defensively and from a game management point of view. The lads look a little short on confidence which is to be expected and the loss of recent talisman Liam Parfitt to a shoulder knock at half time didn’t help but the introduction of Josh Degroot was positive and she of the injured players coming back in the next couple of weeks should be a lift.
South Leicester are the next opponents, who visit Priory Park next week, when the lads will look to kick start their season, referee willing of course.
Macclesfield: 15. Reed 14. Broster 13. Winterbottom 12. Davenport 11. Parry 10. L. Barker 9. Townsend and 1. Berry 2. Sheratte 3. Robinson 4. F. Barker 5. Marwick 6. Degroot 7. Parfitt (C) 8. Palmer
Replacements: 16. Moss 17. Poole 18. Jones 19. Lacey 20. Mayor
Tries: Dolly – Sale 40
Conversions: Johnson – Sale 40
Penalties: Johnson – Sale x4 6, 11, 54, 64 L. Barker – Macclesfield 19