Macclesfield 18-28 Sedgley Park
This local derby was between the top try scorers in National 2 North sat in 3rd place and their Cheshire hosts who have been undigging the green shoots of recovery having won their last 4 from 5 after picking up only 3 wins from 12 before that. Confidence is slowly being restored as Interim Coach Marshall Gadd has steadied the ship at the helm. Sedgley park are njoying their first season under former Stockport coach Matt Bebbington, and are hoping to crash the promotion party by sneaking into the top 2 currently occupied by Sale FC and Hinckley.
The home side started brightly and scored from a great first phase move off a maul in their own half, with full back Charlie Reed showing express pace down the right after Lewis Barker skilfully created the gap. The Blues’ positivity was clear to see as they dominated territory for the opening half hour, winning a number of penalties in their opponents ’22 and took the scrum frequently, despite squandering a number of opportunities, meanwhile, they defended their line well on Sedgley’s only ’22 entry.
The visitors had no answer to Macclesfield’s scrum and it was from this source the second try came, when the men in Blues turned over a second scrum, kicked to the corner and 2 phases after the resulting maul fly half Tom Morton creatively parried a pass out wide to Sam Broster who dived into the left wing corner (10-0 after 27 mins).
Up to that point the home side had looked relatively untroubled but that second try woke up the men from Whitefield (North Manchester), and after winning a penalty in phase play in the middle of the park and kicking to the corne, the sedgely forwards lay the platform for big centre Matt Riley power over from close range and convert himself (10-7 after 32 mins). Sedgley weren’t done there and took the lead just before half time, but only after Macc had squandered another opportunity in the opposition ’22 and some kicking ping pong in the midfield. The Tigers were starting to exert their physicality and win the collisions in attack and it was by this means space was created for the rapid Jamie Harrison to breakdown the left from the half way line and pop the ball to full back Andy Riley (10-14 HT).
The way the lads have been digging out results in the last few weeks, and showing strong mentality to get results, would rightfully have given the Blues the belief that they could turn this result around, but one stat looms large at Priory Park this season an that is that they have yet to over turn a half time scoreline this season and so it proved that that record would not be broken in this game despite an heroic effort.
Marshall Gadd must have been disappointed to concede so soon after the restart after the Priory park were given the ball by a not straight lineout on half way only to lose it when a high tackle after the whistle was given by referee Matt Turvey and that gave Sedgley an instant opportunity, and although this attack was defended Macc never really recovered from being pegged back so soon. Minutes later Tigers’ impressive England Counties second row Rob Birtwell powered over on the 20th phase in a row in the home side’s ’22 as the pressure told (10-21 after 48 mins). The visitors’ had stepped up in physicality and power just before half time and didn’t let that level drop.
Macclesfield responded with a strong attacking phases of their own although they would have hoped for more than just the 3 points from Tom Morton’s boot on 56 minutes from the amount of territory they were able to accumulate, territory that they were afforded by the indiscipline of their opponents, although the more biased supporters in the stands may argue they should have had more pens at the scrum which would have reflected their dominance in that area (14-7 the final pen count in favour of the home side). The Blues didn’t seem able to impose their powerful pack on Sedgley like they had in the first half hour.
Sedgley had powered up the pitch when they scored their all important bonus point try although in bizarre fashion. Hooker Danny Maher had sniped a half break about 5m from the try line and his offload was deemed to have been intentionally smacked by down by second half sub Chris Townsend, who was consequently yellow carded, and the referee ran under the sticks to signal the penalty try. This was killer to the home side’s hopes who then went in search of 2 tries in an attempt to pick up 2 bonus points with 12 minutes remaining (13-28).
Two strong attacks were built but fell down just short of the visitor’s ’22 as protecting the ball seemed difficult in the stodgy conditions although I’m sure the players will feel they could have done better.
Finally, Sedgley gave away another penalty, which will be the one draw back of their display in review, and after a Blues’ maul captain Ryan Parkinson managed to tae the ball off 9 and wriggle free of 4 defenders from 9 metres out to claim his side’s only consolation score 18-28 the final score. Perhaps a reflection of where each team are in their season and development but certainly a more competitive affair than their first meeting this season.
The lads will reflect on the missed opportunities in the first half and their lack of physicality in the second but the Blues should not hang their heads despite the disappointing result, having won 4 of their last 6 and although the top 2 are yet to visit Priory Park there are plenty of games against sides in and around Macclesfield yet to come, not to mention the out of form Sheffield Tigers next week.
Ben Lloyd (Sedge) and Tom Mantell (Macc)
Referee: Matt Turvery