Macclesfield were suffering a glut of regulars out in this game, including Stelmazsek, Burden, Longmore, Parry, Milne, Simpson, Winterbottom, Blackwell and Matthews and while Preston resisted the any temptation to rest a few and were ready to take advantage with an almost full strength side.
The visitors started more brightly, and wasted multiple chances as Macc struggled to get going giving away silly mistakes and with it possession and territory. The Lancashire outfit had 3 early 22 entries that broke down just short, with Tom Mantell and debutant Will Davies making last ditch turnovers. Davidson missed a long range shot at goal before Proctor broke the dead lock on 10 minutes picking over from close range after Hoppers gained good ground from a scrum on their hosts’ ’22 line.
Neither teams’ attack was in full flow and a lot of the play was between the 22’s, with a lot of kicking tennis played, and Macc seemed to look a fraction stronger in the scrum, until a nice break through the dog legged by Davidson in midfield fed the Hoppers backs who looked pacey and Scott Jordan eventually scored.
That seemed to stun Macc into action and the Cheshire side put 16 phases together to move up the pitch before being pinged for a neck role just metres out from the whitewash and then a handling error did for their next 22 entry minutes later. Hoppers showed little sympathy as a scrum pen on the half way line allowed them to kick to the Macc ’22 and Proctor again went over from close range after the maul. Discipline apparently a problem for the home side but edging it maybe in the scrum.
It looked like a long way back but the men in blue regrouped and got on the right side of the ref starting to swing the momentum and their attack picked up utilising their lineout well and going off the top to generate some front foot ball and forcing a couple of breakdown pens, before scoring just before the half through Josh Redfern who picked over post maul to give the home crowd some hope.
7-19 at the break.
From the restart, Macc started brightly, gifted an opportunity as Davidson took the ball back into his 22 when clearing to touch, but wasted the opportunity to punch back in. Finishing ff chances was proving to be a problem but not for Hoppers who went up the other end and took 3 more points from the tee and quickly followed it up with a close range score from a scrum after Macc were caught in possession 5m out from their own line. Fitzpatrick with the simplest of finishes.
And with that the game was gone for the home side, and the remainder was grim viewing as they tried to play for try bonus points, the unstructured Joue Joue style the home side were forced to implement playing into Preston’s hands took advantage of the loose nature of the game and scored multiple times off transition and kick chase. Trueman came off the bench to score two tries, showing pace for each, once from a turnover and another half break from his own 22 which he chipped ahead and poor Charlie Warren saw the ball land in front of him and backflip over his head into the Preston wingers’ hands. Little luck was enjoyed by the home side lads all day.
The Priory Park crowd did enjoy some cheer, the biggest cheer of the day actually, as younf Will Davies picked up the offload from Franky Barker who had a good game himself making 3 breaks, and showed good pace to finish under the posts. The emotion on his face, despite the score line was a wonderful sight, especially for his father, former Macclesfield captain, and proud family who were in the crowd enjoying that moment immensely and rightfully so. That is what this game and Macc Rugby is all about, good times, team spirit and family environment.
Pope rounded off the scoring with a first phase move off a scrum in the last minute, with Myles Hall yellow carded for a late hit on Trueman who was stretchered off.
Macclesfield have a do or die game against Sheffield Tigers at home next week in their battle for survival and will have to lift the physicality and intensity.
Macclesfield (1-8 and 15-9): Mantell, Moss, Robinson, F. Barker, Redfern, Thorp, McCarthy, Lees and W. Davies, Lomax, Hampson, Broster, Hall, Morton (c), Mason
Replacements: Berry, Poole, Harding, Laing, Warren.
Preston Grasshoppers (1-8 and 15-9): Miller, Millea, Altham, Howard, Procter, Murray, Carlson, Lamprey and Jordan, Spence, Hurst, Fitzpatrick, Jobson, Davidson, Gough.
Replacements: Trippier, Madden, Arnold, Truman, Pope
Tries: Redfern (37) Davies (75)
Conversions: Morton (38, 76)
Sin Bins: Hall (80)
Tries: Proctor (10), Jordan (25), Howard (32), Fitzpatrick (57), Truman (62, 66), Pope (80)
Conversions: Davidson (11, 26, 32, 58, 63, 69, 80)
Penalties: Davidson (46)
Referee: James O’Brien
Star man: Fitzpatrick