Blues 20-15 Huddersfield
Macclesfield were looking for 3 wins in a row in over 18 months and Huddersfield were keen to build on their latest scalp (Tynedale) at what is fast becoming their fortress home track.
If the Cheshire side were unaware that this was going to be a meaty battle they certainly did after 16 minutes having been pegged back in their own ’22 with backs to the wall. Time and again Huddersfield’s early superior energy and power allowed them to make metres and in roads in to the Macc ’22 utlising their big pack – Thompson, Bradley and Piper should get special mention, especially Bradley who looks like quite an all round quality flanker. The Blues dug in though and restricted the Yorkshireman to only 3 points at the expense of a James Hampson yellow card having kicked through a ruck 5m out. Their set piece had wobbled but the introduction of Sam Moss at hooker settled them down and possession was retained replacing the unfortunate Nico Nyemba who struggled in the scrum particularly, despite impressing in the loose.
The first half was a half of two halves…the first belonged to Huddersfield and the second to the Blues as they responded with only their second entry to the opposition ’22, and winger James Hampson was back from the bin to keep his scoring streak going in the corner, his 4th in 4, on the stroke of half time (5-3). The harsh reality for Huddersfield is that there are no prizes for possession and territory, you must take your chances when they come and at the break they had squandered 4 of their 5 red zone opportunities.
The Cheshire side picked up where they left off after the break when their first attack yielded another 3 points from under the posts from Morton’s boot. The opportunity had come from Morton’s own break 40m out before the Yorkshiremen’s competitive approach to the breakdown gave away the pen pretty much under the sticks.
This approach did prove to be a productive source of turn overs though and a penalty of this nature gave Davey the chance to pull 3 back from 40m out shortly after, but was unsuccessful on a slightly sticky pitch that didn’t adhere to goal kickers.
The Blues’ defence was impressive all day and were only fully broken once, righting the weaknesses of last week’s visit to Blaydon when 34 points were conceded. The visitors to priory Park put a lot of ball down and were forced to touch to give up a lot of opportunities they fought hard to generate.
After weathering another territorial spell of pressure the star of the game emerged as Full Back Lewis Barker, time and again broke the defensive line with speed and guile usually in broken play and kick returns. The Huddersfield defence found him to be a constant menace.
Huddersfield didn’t get into the Blues ’22 as much as in the first half but posed a threat with their physicality and passionate support, however macc constantly found a way to get the ball back and silenced the travelling support on the hour when
Toby Twigg put daylight between the teams making it 13-3 after breaks by Parkinson and Barker.
But ten minutes later Thompson was at the bottom of a maul try to pull it back to 13-10 before, Lewis Barker and Parkinson combined again on 72 minutes to show why they hold superstar status at Priory Park and the latter to score 20-10. The visitors lost discipline and referee Timothy Allatt stood for little nonsense all day and didn’t have time for the gobbier players in the travelling team’s ranks and penalized them at the restart allowing the Blues to kill the game, however a series of penalties saw the Blues surrender possession and territory leading to a try at the other end for the visitors on 77 minutes to make the home fans sweat again (20-15).
When the bench had been emptied and the pack won a penalty at the scrum allowing Morton to put to the corner in search of the all important bonus point 4th try they crowd must have thought that was the end of the action but the Blues knocked on after the maul came down meaning the men in blue had one more set to defend and an intense set it was, however Toby Twigg managed to steal the ball at the breakdown in centre field and the win was assured.
This was a game that this side would not have won a few months ago, to dig that deep and wrangle a win really took the boys to the well and back. But Barker and Parkinson were in excellent form and the bench is becoming quite a weapon with youngsters Tom Poole and Brendan Berry really looking strong at the late set pieces, while Tom Morton’s stock is rising with each game at Fly Half. That’s 3 wins in a row and 3 from 4 under interim Head Coach Marshall Gadd. The recovery is underway and the yboys have given the fans renewed enjoyment but it wont get any easier with Leicester Lions away followed by Sedgley park at home the next 2 weeks.
Highlights of this game are available on Blues’ social media and Youtube Channel.