National 2 North Rugby came back with a bang with high scoring results recorded across the league, and this was no exception. Macclesfield fans may see the score and wonder what happened but the result doesn’t tell the whole story.
The Cheshire side had a tough selection in the week before travelling to Welford Road, Wigston, as a number of key players who have shown promise throughout preseason were all unavailable, not to mention second row Josh Redfern who was left out after being red carded in last weeks’ Cheshire Cup tie with Chester. Despite this the boys made a good fist of it.
Macc defended well in the early stages, as a midfield penalty allowed the home team to go to the corner but fans favourite Franky Barker managed to worm his way on to the ball and kill the green and white pack’s advance. Shortly after it was the men in blue’s turn to make an impression with the ball, as James Hampson managed to create some space for winger for the day, Pete Board who galloped down the left flank and carry hard into contact in the opposition 22, before a turnover a few phases later.
South Leicester enjoyed the greater possession in those early stages again going to the corner after a penalty allowed them access to the Macclesfield 22, but it was another attack heroically seen off. The Wigston side looked strong but not as strong as they had in years gone by perhaps missing the guidance of their former 10 Ricky Aley. A long spell between the ‘22’s ensued as both sides struggled with penetration and ball retention.
The Priory Lane side were excellent in defensive form and earned their opening score for their patience and guile, which came on 20 minutes as Johnson overthrew a lineout for the Midlanders, with the energetic Jordan Simpson snaffling up the loose ball and cantering to the line despite the attention of 2 defenders to celebrate his National League debut not to mention his birthday too.
Macc appeared to be invigorated by that score for a time after, as a massive maul gained 20m and a penalty to drive them up the field, but were continuing to offer the home side a foot hold with midfield penalties. One such occurrence ended in South Leicester scoring in slightly bizarre fashion after their lineout was stolen, and Macc looked to play out but a fumble was punished by Palmer on 27 minutes and converted by Palmer (5-7 the score).
Three minutes later the Welford Road side capitalised on another midfield penalty yielded as they kicked to the corner and eventually went over through Palmer who converted himself (14-5 on 31 minutes).
The visitors had looked so comfortable in defence to that point and had to dig in, and dig in they did as young debutant scrum half Jonny Mason, who has added some real energy to the attacking force, put a lovely cheeky little kick in to the hosts’ ‘22 resulting in the full back being forced into touch. The pack composed themselves to maul for first a penalty, and then on the second attempt the influential stalwart hooker Sam Moss peeled of the back and went over to reduce the deficit to 14-10 at half time. The game finely poised but Macclesfield carrying the momentum into the break and must have been please with the match situation as it stood.
The second half began with an error filled display between the 22’s by both sides, neither able to keep the ball long enough to build phases or penetrate, so itseemed logical the next score would come from 1st phase, as Full Fack Lane put down in the corner after Bean had beaten the Macc defensive line for pace on 44 minutes and 4 minutes later Travers went through the middle, again on the first phase to lead 26-10 and it was looking grim for the Cheshire outfit, and they struggled to gather themselves for a short spell after this hammer blow.
But now forced to play from deep a little more, Macclesfield actually got into their attacking stride with Jordan Simpson breaking the line with a powerful carry in the middle around half way, making 25 metres and offloading to the supporting and pacey winger Pete Milne, who in turn offloaded to Joe Palmer. The cavalry came in support and another debutant, centre Kane Ditchfield had the simplest of finishes after the pack had shortened up the home sides’ defence and it was game on 26-17 on 53 minutes following Lomax’s conversion from just left of the posts. Could the boys do it? Could they come back having not led since the 27th minute and with their side with so many new faces?
The attacking flair continued as long serving England Counties capped prop Tom Mantell made an audacious offload in the tackle, to impact sub Brendan Berry who was through but for the most last ditch of last ditch tap tackles to prevent what surely would have been a score in the left corner which would have narrowed the scores.
The Macc lads will be disappointed with the manner of the way the game was taken away from them, as at this stage they trailed but looked the more likely, so when a standard clearance kick from their own ’22 was charged down and fell to McMenamin for simplest of finishes on 59 minutes (33-17).
The attitude of the boys could not be questioned as they pounded the home sides’ half for the next 10-12 minutes, desperately trying to find a way through as Head Coach Marshall Gadd rang the changes with the experienced Pete Hardwick coming on in the backs, Townsend moving to 10, and the energetic Tom Brand and Matt Thorpe introduced in to the pack.
Macc were trying so hard they were playing from their own line and this proved too dangerous as a handling error relinquished possession before a defensive pen allowed South Leicester to maul over through Cheney on 69 minutes, converted by Palmer to lead 40-17 and putting the result beyond doubt. But that didn’t deter Macc as they went in search of the bonus point 4th try and Gadd must have been pleased with his sides’ determination when Jonny Mason sniped through the middle to score under the posts on 77 minutes after a long spell in the in the red zone.
South Leicester polished off the win with a push over from a scrum with the last play of the game but Macclesfield will feel the scoreline did not truly reflect the story of the game.
No less than 7 players made their debut as new era begins for the men in blue and a number were making not only their Macc debut but their National League debut.
The signs are encouraging, especially as this group showed a team spirit not seen at the club for a number of years, we also welcome back 7 1st XV players this week that are all incontention for the shirt including Captain Morts.
Foundations are beginning to set, the boys are anxious to build we believe the results will come.