Otley came into this still looking over their shoulder at the relegation fight and the Blues were all but out of it and after their disappointing local derby defeat to table toppers Sale FC last week, bouncing back was the order of the day. The last time there 2 sides met, defeat for Macclesfield led to the sacking of Head Coach Giles Heagerty so it would be a benchmark test to see how far the Cheshire side had come.
It was the home side who started the better, racing into a 21-0 lead. Having dominated the scrum while enjoying good spells of territory and possession, Morton put to the corner from a scrum pen in his own half and after the collapse of the maul just short of the line Joe Palmer went over in the corner on 11 mins. Lewis Barker impressively converted. Another scrum pen put the Blues in the Otley half before another penalty allowed them to go to the corner and Sam Moss was at the bottom of the successful drive after 17 mins. Lewis Barker again slotted from the touchline.
Good territory play pegged the Yorkshire side back and positive defence forced the mistake to allow Morton to put Macc into the Otley ’22 again. The Priory Park side were held up twice before Marwick scored off the back of the scrum on 24 mins.
But just before the break Otley found their feet and despite being down to 14 thanks to a yellow card for Liebster who pulled down a maul, they came back into it though O’Donnell when the home side attempted to stand off a maul. The Blues led 21-77 at the break and had enjoyed 63% of the ball and 56% of the territory.
The second half was almost role reversal of the first, as Otley dominated territory and it was only through good defence that Otley didn’t level. The boys in blues defended the phases well but couldn’t do much more than kick clear when they got their hands on the ball and struggled to escape their own half. Both sides were a bit wasteful in phase play in truth, with Otley managing to disrupt the Blues’ breakdown frequently and were inaccurate in their own attacks.
Full back Hudson scored after a great break down the left wing on half way off a strike move on 53 mins (21-14) to make the home fans sweat. The arm wrestle in the middle of the park continued until Otley made one too many handling errors in their own half and from the scrum Parkinson picked up, went wide and on the return phase Marwick put fellow lock Franky Barker through on the edge of the Otley 22 to score (65 mins 28-14).
The game wasn’t over though, as an impressive and fast paced Macclesfield attack brokedown in the opposition ’22, Otley broke out from the resulting scrum and went the length of the field to score with winger Petchey the finisher.
A nervy finish was in store for the locals, although many could be forgiven for thinking it was over after the Blues re-grasped the initiative at scrum time and picked up another scrum pen which Parkinson sensibly called for the posts from, but surprisingly Barker missed the kick that would have secured the win.
Macc were pegged back and put under immense pressure culminating in a scrum oenalty just outside their own 22 that fly half Smith put to the corner with a chance to maul over for the chance to kick for a draw, but replacement hooker Nico Nyemba worked his way onto the man with the ball in the maul and turned it over.
The Blues will be pleased with their first half performance but perhaps not with how they ended it and will look back on the in second half effort in attack as they did not play with the same pace and precision. The lads dug deep and muscled out the win which is something earlier in the season they may not have had the confidence or faith in their tactics to do.
Tom Poole was forced to play the full 80 due to a pre match issue with Billy Robinson and although the scrum didn’t always go back he kept penalties to a minimum despite some debatable referee decisions and quality opponents he held his corner.
Poole could barely speak at the end of the game but drew enough breath to respond when asked if he felt if the scrum was where the game was won today, “Well certainly first half we were dominating, second half not so but it was a big massive effort from the boys, never give up.”
Tries: Palmer (11), Moss (17), Marwick (24), F. Barker (65)
Conversions: L. Barker (12, 18, 25, 66)
Penalties: L. Barker – Missed (76)
Tries: O’Donnell (29), Hudson (53), Petchey (70)
Conversions: Smith (30, 54, 71)
Sin Bins: Liebster (34)
Referee: Matthew Riley
Star man: Tom Poole
Macclesfield (1-8 and 15-9):
Mantell, Moss, Poole, Burden, Marwick, Palmer, Parfitt, Parkinson (c) and Townsend, Morton, Hampson, Broster, L. Barker, Reed, Lomax.
Replacements: Nyemba, Robinson, Laing, Heath, Allsop.
Otley (1-8 and 15-9):
Burkinshaw, Steele, Moss, Cook, Dunn, Liebster, O’Donnell, Mitchell (c) and Hudson, Petchey, Goss, Mickie, Beaumont, Smith, Rowntree.
Replacements: Sanderson, Watson, Crouch, Rowntree, Coupland.