Sheffield only sat 2 places above Macclesfield with an extra win, having lost their last 4, while Macc were buoyed by the win over Leicester Lions last week, and had never won at Dore Moor before so were looking to make history.
The conditions were less than ideal and captain Tom Morton was faced with the dilemma at the toss (if he was to win it), of playing up the hill with the wind or down the hill against it. It was unclear which would be more beneficial until the game started and as it happened the Cheshire side ended up with the later in the first half. It would prove the less desirable as they trailed to two early tries, first Packard going through the Macc line exposing a flier in the first minute, and then top N2N try scorer last year Jamie Broadley, was on the shoulder of the half breaker from the maul in the corner to go under the posts on 4 minutes. Duffy converting both tries despite the strong breeze.
Macc struggled to get out of their own half, especially as the wind prevented the exit kick, and on the rare occasion some field position was gained the men in orange and maroon defended well. Some early opportunities were spurned by Macc like when Sam Parry jumped on a handling error by Pete Swatkins in the Sheffield ’22 but the Priory Park outfit couldn’t find a way through. Then Parry was again involved as he broke down the right with a solo run, and an off-side penalty came at the next break down which Morton put in the corner and but for a slightly misplaced pass in a backs move off the back of the maul, Lomax and Hall would have isolated the Tigers full back.
The home side seemed to have the edge at the scrum in the first half hour and a penalty won in their own half laid the platform for their next score as they broke down their left, built phases, and Head Coach and Linebreaker Broadley turned provider for local hero Frank Wragg to go under the sticks after 18 minutes.
Handeling errors were mounting as the wind made the ball hard to grasp, and this invited pressure for the travelling side who were unable to get on top in the territory battle, while Sheffield utilised the support runner in the tackle well to gain ground. This led to the bonus point score for Tigers as Swatkins had a walk in following strong carries from their second rows.
At this point, any other game you would say it was over as a contest but with the wind Sheffield must have been thinking that they had to accrue enough points to defence the role reversal in the second half.
Macc rallied just before the half time interval, forcing a kick out on the full and then winning a breakdown penalty in possession which was put into the corner, but the pack couldn’t secure the lineout for a maul and the home side cleared. Moments later Sam Broster broke through the middle off a strike move and offloaded but the backs couldn’t finish it off and then Parry broke down the right but lost the ball in contact when looking to offload in the Sheffield ’22 which would have provided a straight forward finish for one of the supporting runners. And so the half ended 28-0 to Tigers.
But hey, now we would see what the Macc lads would do with the favourable conditions, and it started well. An early handling error in Tigers’ own 22 allowed Macc a scrum using the 2 props that were introduced from the bench before th e break, Robinson and Mantell, who settled the scrum and won a penalty. Morton put it in the corner but again the lineout wasn’t secured. Tigers cleared and this time macc secured the lineout but were turned over in the maul, as the home side appeared to struggle with the same issues Macc had in the first…getting out their half.
Not long later Macc had scrum ball in the home 22 again and with their newfound superiority set up a number of phases before Jordan Simpson went over from close range on 48 minutes, converted by Morton. 28-7 with 32 minutes left – Game on.
Macc had shown great character to come out of the traps quickly in the second half and hit back straight away, but their Yorkshire hosts were not giving anything away and had not read the script as they returned fire immediately. Macc dropped a ball in their own half and then conceded a penalty which led to the Broadley scoring again, again sitting on the shoulder of the carrier (35-7 52 mins gone).
This didn’t deter Macclesfield despite the obvious uphill task they faced and Sam Parry made a glorious solo break being stopped just short before Morton was held up over the line and a yellow card was given to Swatkins. Phase after phase was built in the home sides’ ’22 but the visitors couldn’t find a way through despite the man advantage and then a penalty for a dangerous hand off against Simpson was awarded and Tigers managed to break to go the length of the field and end any hopes of a comeback, that man Broadley again.
The game opened up in the last 20 with Sheffield brimming with confidence, scoring twice more before the end, while the Cheshire side squandered their only other opportunity after a positive maul in the corner.
It was a disappointing scoreline but both sides had had 10 opposition 22 entries so it was clear Sheffield were just more clinical (Macc 10% conversion and Sheffield 80%), while the homeside had 10 linebreaks to 2.
Head Coach Marshall Gadd was in philosophical mood after the game saying, “you have to look for the positives in any defeat and we will learn a lot more from that game than if the score were the other way around, we will have to look at the video which will highlight a few work-on’s for us which moving forward is a positive thing.” He went on to say [referring to Poole, Burden, Barker and Robinson]], “…we have a few boys coming back from injury or whatever now and we just have to find the positives out games like of today, theres nothing we can do about the result now, its about how we react to it, we have a week off next week fixture-wise so it will be an opportunity for us to maybe get some video analysis in and hae=ve a look at where we need to improve moving forward.”
Macc’s next fixture is at home to Tynedale on the 17th November who sit 3 places higher but are enduring a much more sobering season than last term so far so the lads will be looking to take their frustrations out on the North Easterners.