The last time these sides met, way back in week 6, Macclesfield picked up their first win of the season but haven’t won on the road at all this season, whereas Otley have recovered to 6th place.
This game was a tale of two halves, two yellow cards and a study in momentum.
The first half of the latest encounter between these two sides is one that the visitors won’t want to reflect on for long, finding themselves 31-0 down at the break, suffering what must be their worst half of Rugby so far in the 20 games played, conceding 5 tries without landing a shot in reply. Macc’s two ventures into the opposition 22 both ended in handling errors whereas the West Yorkshire outfit showed a ruthless clinical edge, and were on the front foot from the word go, immediately winning a penalty which was put into the corner and after the maul was illegally brought down Ollie Longmore was sin binned for playing the ball on the deck at a ruck, with 3 tries scored in the time the visitors battled with 14 men. Beaumont, Dunn and Magee all touching down in the first 10 minutes, with Longmore returning to find his side 19-0 down.
Macc were really struggling at the scrum and deja vu set in, as they couldn’t escape their half as they were repeatedly pushed off their own ball or yielded a penalty which put them back on their own line. Just about everything that could go wrong in that first half did, as Otley scored a try off the back of a missed Macc lineout and at one point broke out of their own half immediately from the restart of the last try.
The Macc lads will have been glad to get back to the sanctuary of the dressing room, but perhaps not when Head Coach Marshall Gadd gave them his assessment of what he had seen.
The second half could not have been more of a contrast with the first from a Macclesfield perspective, who upped the tempo and energy, scoring on 46 minutes through a nice first phase move carving up the Otley defensive line, after a spell of territory and possession. The visitors enjoyed another such spell shortly after and after building phases number 8 Dafydd Rees cut through from 8 metres to dot down under the sticks, 31-14 after 51 minutes.
The men in blue were piling on the pressure, rejuvenated by the scores as they were now brimming with confidence, as the home crowd’s joyful cheers were turning into nervy grumbles. It was now Otley’s turn to not be able to escape their 22 and from a poorly chased box kick the backs combined well, breaking and offloading with freedom to put Blackwell over making it 31-21 after 56 minutes, with the travelling fans daring to believe they were in store for a special afternoon.
Unfortunately the bubble burst on the hour as the pack, who now seemed to have recovered from their scrum woes with the introduction of Mantell and Moss from the bench, pushed the home side off their own ball deep in the Macc half only for a handling error in the backs to present the ball for Magee to have the simplest of finishes (43-21).
Minutes later the Yorkshiremen were on the attack again after gathering in a speculative cross kick from deep and when the winger was taken out after a chip ahead Dan Lomax was sent to the bin, although replays show he held his line and had no time to react. During that time Smith and Beaumont both scored ending all hope of a memorable come back.
And so Macclesfield re-grouped and went in search of a try bonus which their second half attacking display deserved. Even the locals were confessing that Macc deserved something from the game with the way they came out second half and played when it appeared all was lost.
The Cheshire side pounded the Otley 22 and eventually Harry Blackwell picked up his brace after powerfully getting over in the corner. Neither of his finishes were easy and the young student showed great desire for the cause.
Beaumont will undoubtedly get the man of the match award but as far as Macc are concerned Sam Stelmazsek once again showed a spark in attack, Jordan Simpson was powerful in the carry, Tom Mantell and Sam Moss helped stabilise the scrum in the second half and captain Tom Morton never let the boys’ heads goes down.
So 1 point for Macclesfield on a day when all three relegation rivals, the Leicester sides and Wharfedale, all picked up wins. But again they showed great attacking threat, the only issue being that this seems to come when the pressure is off away from home, or when at home.
The good news is that the next 2 opponents are teams just in front of Macc in the table, Preston and Wharfedale, both at home, before what will likely be a decisive encounter away at Leicester Lions.
So some exciting rugby to come at Priory park in the next month!
Otley (15-9 and 1-8):
Magee, Hudson, De Glanville, Mackie, Beaumont, Smith, Skelton and Rigg, Graham, Sanderson, Dunn, Mitchell, Malthouse, Dyson, Burns.
Replacements: Watson, Moss, Willet, Scott-Paul, Joshua.
Tries: Dunn (2), Beaumont (5), Magee (9, 60), Graham (23), Beaumont (31, 32, 65)
Conversions: Smith (2, 5, 9, 32, 60, 65)
Macclesfield (15-9 and 1-8):
Lomax, Parry, Blackwell, Winterbottom, Hall, Morton, Stelmazsek and Berry, Longmore, Robinson, Brand, Palmer, Laing, Simpson, Rees.
Replacements: Moss, Mantell, Cross, Thorp, Mason.
Tries: Hall (46), Rees (51), Blackwell (56, 74)
Conversions: Morton (46, 51, 56)