Macclesfield travelled to Peterborough sitting only one place above the basement team in National 2 North, with both sides desperate for the points with only 3 wins between the 2 all season so far. Macc must have thought they had turned the corner after the impressive victory over Leicester Lions but then would have been disappointed with their showings against Sheffield Tigers and Tynedale.
This turned out to be the quintessential game of 2 halves, as the visitors began the better, first defending multiple sets and pushing back the Peterborough advance and then in attack the Cheshire outfit played with a freedom and passion that has been lacking at times this season. The forwards were powering over the gainline, shortening up the home side’s defensive line with some impressive movement of the ball and created front foot ball for the backs who were clearly in the mood also. It was no surprise that Macc scored first on 17 minutes, through Centre Sam Broster off a 5m maul after building great pressure in the red zone.
The Priory Park side repelled all Peterborough attacks although the home sides’ maul did look a threat. On 29 minutes Macc struck again through Dafydd Rees in the corner after Harry Blackwell had broken through on a first phase move, followed by a good shift by the forwards softening up the local sides’ defence (0-12).
Minutes later it looked like the men in blue would score again when former Rotheram Titans’ centre Jordan Davies broke though and would have crossed the whitewash but for an incredible last ditch tap tackle. Another opportunity was spurned on 35 minutes when the referee awarded a penalty for not rolling away at a Macc ruck in the Peterborough ’22 only to see the decision reversed due to Joe Palmer being judged by the AR to have pushed an opponent in the chest despite claiming he was the victim of an eye gouge.
There was a sense of panic about the home team just before the half time whistle which came after 50 minutes of play due to a number of penalties being put touch and the lineouts taken, interspersed with some scrappy play with repeat turnovers on both sides.
The travelling side were massively encouraged by their first half showing but the lack of another score before the break would come back to haunt them. After the break the home side had a renewed vigour about them mauling hard and kicking territory well. Macc appeared to have lost the spark that was evident in the first half play unable to get through despite some good build up play and phase building. They weren’t helped by the fact that lock Tom Burden was yellow carded for a cynical offence at a defensive maul that was rapidly moving towards his teams’ try line having already travelled 20 odd metres, in the 42nd minutes.
Neither side was able to take their chances until the 58th minute when the home team pegged Macclesfield back to their own line and muscled over from close range through second row Edbrooke. That lifted the crowd and the Cheshire side looked nervy while Peterborough were growing in confidence and stature, their forwards were starting to get on top. The maul threat meant that the Macc pack had to stand off the maul in order to tackle the ball carrier and this limited their ability to compete in the air, they were struggling with the referee’s interpretation of the engagement at the scrum, meanwhile Fly half Dofeo’s kicking game was winning the territory battle so Peterborough were in the ascendancy when their second try came though the other lock Lewis, again from close range, converted by Young to lead 14-12.
Macclesfield threw the kitchen sink at Peterborough in the last 10 minutes as they tried to up the pace of their phase play and worked hard to get up the field but couldn’t find a way through the defensive line. Both team looked ruined at the final whistle as it had been a brutal encounter and had been played at a hell of a pace at times.
As a result the two teams swapped places in the league and as of now the Priory Park side are bottom of the league which is a sobering thought. Marshall Gadd and Andy Appleyard’s young squad has built an admirable team spirit but the task facing them in the second half of the season will require them to raise their game and will demand some big performances from the squad who will have to fight for every inch, and spill blood, sweat and tears on the way to survival, but as we saw last season under Gadd, it can be done.