This was a relegation dog fight if ever there was one. Macc sat 3 places behind Leicester at the start of the day and were hoping to drag them into the relegation fight and drawing themselves nearer Sheffield Tigers, but it wasn’t to be. However a frantic and intense game took place for the neutral.
The home side started the stronger with Key presented with poor discipline affording an early shot at goal, that sailed wide, and then moments later Lions chose to go to the corner but were guilty of Truck & Trailer at the maul.
The Cheshire side were struggling to get any field position in the early stages and had to withstand a lot of phases from their opposition pack, the first score coming on 11 minutes when pacey second row Sumpter broke and finished from half way.
The arm wrestle in midfield continued as both sides infringed in the early phases of their attacking opportunities, the referee was particularly quick onto foul play at the maul and breakdown. Macc had a good opportunity in the Lions ’22 after putting to the corner, but the ball squirmed out the side of the maul and the home sides’ counter attack was snaffled after a scramble, in midfield.
Eventually Macc, managed to wrestle back some territory and ball, allowing the pack to capitalise, producing a fine maul try with Moss at the bottom of the pile. Lions led 7-5 after 21 mins.
The stalemate in the centre of the pitch continued, as both teams defended resolutely, in what was rapidly becoming a a penalty fest (8 each by half time) and neither sides attack really got on top until the ever dangerous Devon Constant was on the end of a move by a powerful Leicester attack who forced their way in to the Macclesfield ’22 and spread to width with the penalty advantage coming, on 33 mins.
The visitors hit straight back getting the ball beyond the blitz defence and feeding the ball in to the vacated wide channels, where Tom Mantell and Jonny Mason combined for a nice score on 37 minutes, converted by Morton (12-14).
But the home side took the momentum in to half time having put to the corner and mauled over after more indiscipline in midfield. Hooker Taylor the scorer but key missed the conversion (19-12 HT).
Macclesfield have been guilty of being a second half team at times this season so there was no real fear going into the second period, and Marshall Gadd’s men came out firing in the second half, appearing to have upped the tempo and energy a fraction. On 45 mins Macc made the home side pay for some repeated indiscipline, which included Centre Key sin binned, and Josh Redfern produced a huge carry through traffic to score from approximately 6 metres out (19-19 game on).
Both sides spurned chances as the defence coaches would have been happier on both sides than the attack. Macc will have hoped to have taken advantage of the scrum which was one area they would have seen Preston dominate against Lions last week but were unable to gain the upper hand, while the maul was going reasonably well, but neither team were able to string a significant amount of phases together until Leicester managed to put 15 together as Benjamin was the grateful recipient of the linebreaker’s offload down their right wing to score on 67 minutes (24-19 Lion led).
In that last ten minutes Macclesfield were the better side and were frantic in attack, putting together some of the feistiest, most energetic carrying off first phase, 9 and 10 that we have seen all season. Three times the men in blue powered their way into the home team’s 22 as they went in search of the bonus point win, a converted try all that would sufficient. But the pace they were playing at perhaps exceeded even themselves as the carrier was trapped with the ball each time and time eventually ran out, even as Dan Lomax appeared to half break off a 1st phase move from a scrum in midfield in the last play of the game, but couldn’t quite get the ball to Pete Milne out wide.
Sam Stelmaszek was lively in the centre as part of an enforced selection there, with Josh Redfern probably having his best game of the season. Tom Morton was the home team’s selection as Macc man of the Match as has been the case so many times this season, while James Hampson played well in the centre and will hope to keep this run of games going and be injury free.
Once again a valiant effort by the Priory park outfit, but with Preston the visitors at the weekend and a number of injuries now pending, the Cheshire side will have to dig deep to hunt down South Leicester and Sheffield Tigers to survive National 2 this year.