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Chester 43 – 20 Macclesfield

Chester had the opportunity to go top if Ionians lost and Macclesfield were looking to do something they hadn’t yet this term, put back to back wins together after a great performance last week against Stourbridge. However, Marshall Gadd was forced into a number of changes this week, with Josh Redfern (illness), Brendan Berry (hamstring), Jordan Davies (back), Board (concussion), along with Parry, Simpson and Blackwell all unavailable. Billy Robinson took a place on the bench despite not being fully fit after a knock in the last game and attack coach Andy Appleyard took it on himself to fill the centre slot. It must be frustrating to Gadd who would likely have hoped to carry the momentum from keeping a winning team together, but has never been afraid to throw youngsters in at the deep end. The hosts were boasting ex-England player Ben Foden on the bench, return to his hometown club before a move to New York.

Macclesfield started the brighter, after defending a 30-odd phase opening attacking set from the men in red. Sam Stelmaszek made a break from his own ’22 and after showing good game management and patience in the opposition 22, a half break by Tom Morton led to youngster Charlie Warren touching down in the corner on 12 minutes.

The lead didn’t last long as the home side worked a strong set up field and into the 22 before scoring from close range through second row Cottrell, converted by Robins on 17 mins.

Macc looked set to re-take the lead moments later when 5m out from the Chester line but a misplaced pass saw the ball go to ground, the loose ball snaffled by Robins and a penalty was yielded on the Macc 10m line that was put to the corner by Bennett, front rower Croft going over from close range after the maul went to ground (14-5 after 24 mins).

The Priory Park outfit struggled to utilise possession while the error and penalty count pegged them back in their own 22, gifting another chance to the home side who were very clinical, Reed scoring, again fro close range (21-5 on 32 mins).

It looked like being a long afternoon until a huge scrum in the Chester 22 which came about after a knock on from the restart, saw the Blue pack push Chester off the ball and scrum half Sam Stelmaszek snapped up the loose ball before darting for the line – 21-10 at the break.

Macc appeared to have something extra at the scrum so early in the second half it was no surprise this set up a scoring chance, as the forwards pushed a scrum forward the back made a break for Sam Broster who was pulled down just short, unfortunately no one could convert the chance and how Macclesfield would rue not punching back in at that point.

Former England man, Foden was introduced and made an instant impact, his kick return shortened up the defensive line creating an overlap, Chester put it through the hands and scored in the corner through Ross on 48 mins (28-5). Chester scored again minutes later, Croft getting his second and from a close pick again, opening a spell for Chester in which they scored 2 tries in 2 minutes with the Foden brothers combing to extend the lead from the restart, 38-5.

Macclesfield managed to stop the rot with an attack of their own, going close after occupying the Chester 22 for 5+ minutes but lost the ball in their own scrum 5m out.

The home side were now full of confidence and moved the ball to width well, putting King in in the corner to cap off the win.

Macc could still get a bonus point and scored one of the tries of the game through Myles Hall on 74 minutes after good work from Morton and Broster had tee’d him up for a quality finish.

The men in blue won a pen in midfield from the restart and spent the rest of the game winning penalties and putting to the corner to try and maul over for the bonus point which eventually came from Sam Broster after great work by the forwards.

A bonus point for Macclesfield against the team in second in the table, in a tough run of games that has seen them play the top 3 and play 4th after the festive period.

With a number of big name players yet to return better days will be ahead for Macc but it was encouraging to get a number of players back in to the action who might not have had as many opportunities as well as give more experience to youngsters.

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