Macclesfield sit second bottom but have been impressive at home in recent months so 5th place Fylde had no room for complacency coming into this game, and it was the Cheshire side who started the brighter, winning penalties from mauls and scrums as they edged toward the visitors’ line Fylde lock (Matt Garrod was sent to the bin in the process), before another powerful scrum led to Moss pic and going over the line on 11 mins, Morton with the conversion.
Fylde hit straight back after an impressive build up and a large number of phases before their speedy Tom Carleton was left all alone on the wing to dot down 3 mins later (7-7). As the match progressed, to the outsider it would have been rather difficult to differentiate the 3rd place team from the 15th with both sides trading blows like a boxing match, the next punch was thrown by the home team who re-took the lead (14-7) through centre Sam Broster who powered over under the posts off a first phase move from a scrum in the Fylde ‘22.
The teams wrestled in midfield for a period and both teams had their moments, Carelton’s chip and chase almost proving fruitful and a nice break down the right from turnover ball for the young Charlie Warren gave his team a great chance. But the visitors again managed to put an extensive amount of phases together and Macc were penalised at the breakdown allowing Fylde put to the corner and after a series of drives at the Macclesfield line Ollie Parkinson, returning to his old club, picked over from close range to score.
It wasn’t long before Fylde were back on the attack. A combination of powerful and elusive running by winger Tom Grimes, along with some slack tackling, allowed Fylde to take the lead before the break. Grimes carried from a scrum on halfway into the Macc ‘22 before the backs spread the ball the opposite wing where Carleton dummied his way through to claim his second of the match.
For a moment it looked as through the Lancastrians might stretch their lead as Grimes and Carelton combined down the left creating a 3 on 1 just metres out but the Assistant Referee spotted one of the two forward passes in the build-up so it remained14-21 at the break.
The second half was action packed excitement. Initially the home team had to weather a storm as Morton’s clearance kick was charged down, before striking back at Fylde, through Dafydd Rees who scored from a strong Macc Maul after a number of attempts had been rewarded with penalties. Connor was sent to the bin for Fylde while there was a bizarre moment when the home team players returned to halfway line for the restart believing they had been awarded a penalty try, only for Morton to be told he had to come back to convert the score which he did so with great composure (21-21 on 53 minutes). Moments later Fylde infringed at the breakdown and from 40m Morton took it on himself to kick the penalty, the ball just straying to the right of the posts.
As we entered the last 10 minutes Fylde took their chance to capitalise on that missed penalty and set up camp inside the Blues’ 22m line and winning a series of penalties as they swung the balance of power at the scrum, Macc losing Robinson to the bin the process after both teams replaced their front rows. After several drives at the line, centre Wilkinson fought his way through traffic to touchdown and Smith converted (21-28).
The Macclesfield pack had had the edge for the majority of the game in the maul and so it was no surprised when they managed to draw level from another maul, having won a penalty for a high tackle following a first phase break down the right through Lomax and Warren. Replacement hooker Ollie Longmore hit his throw and then broke off the back to make it 28-28 with Morton’s conversion, so with 3 minutes left it was game on!
Agony was to come for the team in blue though as, from the restart, Fylde pushed the Blues back into their own half and as Morton looked for a way out in going for the win, Alex Loney made the match winning intervention when he forced the turnover under the posts which Greg Smith dispatched.
It was a tough result for Macc who definitely deserved at least a share of the points but it was another one of those performances which give the fans belief that if the lads continue in this vein then they will surely be pushing away from the relegation zone, as they picked up 2 more points than anyone would have given them chance of getting before the game.
Its little consolation but Fylde Head Coach Warren Spragg was quick to complement his opponents’ effort, “… Macc have won their last two home games and were robbed against Hull Ionians so are clearly a better team than their league position suggests. I expect that they’ll pick up a number of wins between now and the end of the season and I’m glad one of them wasn’t against us!”
Sam Moss had his best game of the season and so was awarded the star man for Macclesfield, solid in the set piece and showing great leadership in the pack that dominated for long spells, while it was difficult to look beyond Tom Carelton for man of the match who was always a threat and will surely be playing at a higher level as some stage possessing unbelievable pace.
The referee had been the panto villain for much of the match judging by the crowd who didn’t agree with his officiating of the scrum and offside calls, but did manage the feisty moments well enough.
Macc have been mighty impressive against the top half teams and their form over the last 5-6 games has given great belief that the best is yet to come, the fact that they seem to be scoring 4 tries a game regularly is a positive and there are still bodies to come back from injury, but they have to transfer their performances against the top half teams into points against the rest and quick as games are running out and the 2 Leicester teams ahead in the table both won again this weekend. Its Huddersfield away next week who sit 5th and always pose a physical test, while February is likely to be the defining month with a number of fixtures against the teams around them.
Tries: Moss (11), Broster (19), Rees (53), Longmore (75)
Conversions: Morton (12, 20, 54, 76)
Penalties: Morton missed (62)
Sin Bins: Robinson (68)
Tries: Carleton (15, 36), Parkinson (30), Wilkinson (73)
Conversions: Smith (16, 31, 37, 74)
Penalties: Smith (79)
Sin Bins: Garrod (8), Connor (52)
Macclesfield (1-8 and 15-9): Mantell, Moss, Poole, Brand, Burden, Palmer, McCarthy, Rees and Lomax, Warren, Blackwell, Broster, Hall, Morton (c), Stelmaszek.
Replacements: Longmore, Robinson, Berry, Simpson, Laing.
Fylde (1-8 and 15-9): Homer, Gregory, Lewis, Parkinson, Garrod, Vernon, Dugdale, Connor and Carleton, Hadfield, Briers, Wilkinson, Grimes, Smith, Crampton.
Replacements: Rodd, Ashcroft, Loney, Dowds, o’Ryan.
Referee: Andrew Wigley
Star man: Tom Carleton (Fylde) and Sam Moss (Macclesfield)