Already relegated Macclesfield ended their season on a high with a bonus point victory over relegated South Leicester.
The conditions were what you’d expect from a match played in December rather than late April as the players had to deal with pouring rain and a howling wind throughout.
South Leicester had to put out a makeshift 15 due to off the field issues, but they started the match the better of the two sides.
Fly-half Dan Glasse opened the scoring early on for them with a penalty kick in front of the posts, after Macclesfield’s pack collapsed in the scrum.
Macc responded instantly and threatened the away try line, but South Leicester defended well and was able to turn the ball over in their own 22.
Lineouts were an issue all game for both sides as the howling wind meant executing lineouts weren’t comfortable and Macc struggled with this early on.
Macclesfield’s pressure was then rewarded with the game’s opening try on 13 minutes, scored by centre Sam Broster for his 10th try of the season. His impressive finish and brilliant all-around performance entitles him to enjoy his favourite meal; ‘Salt n Pepper chicken’ tonight.
It was the pick of the tries on the day as he ran rings around the opposing defence, showing off his blistering pace and deadly step to score a fantastic unconverted try.
Macclesfield was then under the cosh once more as South Leicester dominated the rest of the half’s possession and territory.
The away side spent most of their time in Macc’s 22 and threatened their try line. If it weren’t for fly half Will Davies brilliant interception and Tom Morton’s clearance kick, Macc would have indeed conceded.
South Leicester’s dominance was rewarded with a penalty in front of the posts again, but this time Glasse’s kick sailed away from the uprights.
The wind began to play a huge factor, and when Macc tried a box kick to get themselves out of danger, the ball flew backwards which resulted in a scrum for the away side deep in Macc territory.
However, Macc’s dominant pack wheeled the scrum and got the home side out of danger.
Eventually, Macc conceded, and it was powerhouse centre Javiah Pohe who scored a converted try under the posts after he was picked out by Glasse.
Macc went into the changing rooms 10-5 down and knew they had to up their game if they were going to end the season on a high with a win.
Macc turned on the style in the second half and scored 19 straight unanswered points to confirm a bonus point win.
A brilliant try sealed the bonus point win scored by winger and model engineer Myles Hall on 72 minutes, who was picked out by a beautiful cross-field kick by Davies, allowing Hall the space to score an unconverted try.
That was after Macclesfield took the lead with a try by Sly Stallone lookalike Jordan Simpson, who powered over from close range for a converted try, the impressive conversion by Tom Morton seemed to have been from an almost impossible angle, considering the playing conditions.
Man of the match and bangers & mash lover Tom Brand then scored another try for Macclesfield after he finished brilliantly from close range to score an unconverted try.
It was a fantastic performance from Macclesfield, showing high grit and determination to turn the game around in the second half and end the season on a high with a win.
The character and skill showed in the second half show why Macclesfield would be one of the favourites to bounce straight back up next season.
Interim head coach Andy Appleyard said: ‘It was essential to end the season on a high, the boys have had a tough season and it’s been hard from the start, losing so many players and having so many new faces come in. Lads have come in who are new to this level or men’s rugby completely, so with an average age of 21/22 National 2 was always going to be a tough league to go into for them, but the way we’ve come together, and finish games and training sessions so well make me so proud.
‘Our boys take a while to point out other teams’ weaknesses because of our inexperience, but we’re a good second half team, but we need to increase that and be more consistent. We pointed out where they were weak at half time, and we exposed those weaknesses in the second half.
‘You don’t expect conditions like these on the last game of the season. Usually, it’s a seven’s throw around. There’re areas of our game that we need to improve but time will allow us to do that.
‘We weren’t under any pressure today so that we could try new things. Putting Will to 10 meant he had more responsibility and it also frees up more decision making for Morton to do at fullback, and he’s such a key player for us and it’s important he’s at the top of his game.
‘All the boys have been class, unfortunately some key players have struggled with injury, particularly players like Myles who was injured in preseason but recovered and became top try scorer and also James who’s struggled with his hamstring but he’s turned into a quality 13 and some of the younger lads coming through like Simpson and Brand look to be the future of the club.
‘We can just build for next year and create an identity at Macc rugby, and we want to be a homegrown club, and if we keep as many of these boys here, we can definitely bounce back and come straight back up with a set of boys who are young but full of confidence.’
Written by Ben Jaycock