With relegation confirmed last week after defeat to Title Winners Hull Ionians, Macclesfield were afforded something of a free hit this week against Stourbridge who were not in the promotion mix following an indifferent season by their standards. Macc took the opportunity to look to the future, by blooding another 3 youngsters in James Oliver, Kostja Vesanovs and Matt Harrison, joining James Cross and Josh Burke who have seen action this season in National 2 North. A little reshuffle was required in te backs seeing Will Davies take centre stage at 10 and captain Morton pushing out to 12. Former Macc player Chris Roddy, on loan from Preston, was on the opposition bench, among a side that boasted a lot of size and muscle.
If the young lads were not aware of the step up required in N2 before the game, there were after 2 minutes, when the home side generated a break down their left which Rundle finished with ease, followed 6 minutes later when Heward was in support of another break coming from Stour’s offloading game, Rundle involved again. Macc had been in the game, and had a chance in the Stour 22 after kicks from Broster and Morton pegged the men in pink back, but a handling error put an end to the opportunity (0-12). The home side were very physical and able to get the hands free in the collision, looking like a real threat in the early stages but the Cheshire outfit fought back, generating a number of phase in midfield before earning a penalty that led to a chance for Board but Davies’ pass was just a bit too hot to handle, before teenage debutant Oliver punched in on 19 minutes, maturely finishing the break Morton had made for Parry (5-12).
The Blues were growing into the game, winning a penalty in phase play in their own 22, with Morton’s clever chip over the defence re-gathered before Mason’s superb box kick put Macc in the corner, leading to an opening down the left, after the dual 10 axis of Morton and Davies worked well to create an overlap, but the execution wasn’t quite there as the wide pass went to deck when the shorter pass would have seen Broster have a walk in – still shoots of green in the Macc play that will give encouragement for next season’s campaign. This would be an important lesson for the youngsters’ in the Macc side’s learning curve – take your chances, as shortly after Rundle showed utterly obnoxious pace off a first phase from 40m out to score his second before scrum half Heatley extended the lead 2 minutes later, running it home from 70 odd metres after a handling error turnover.
The game seemed to be getting away from Macclesfield, until centre Sam Broster, playing in his less preferred position at 13, showed his class to step inside one defender and then burn off another, to touch down from 25 or so metres out, bringing the score back to 10-24 at the break.
Any hopes Macc had of getting back in to it in the second half quickly faded, as that man Rundle crossed the line again after a break on half way in the outer channels, followed by a score for full back Harrison who finished a break from the Stour 22 (10-36).
Broster scored another classy try, finding some space in the outer channels from Morton’s wide, flat pass to bring it back to 15-36 on 52 minutes, beating another 2 defenders on the way. It was nice for Sam to have such a good game as he has been the victim of some unfair criticism from the stands at times this season, but certainly showed his quality on this occasion.
Unfortunately this didn’t spark a comeback as the men in blue struggled to deal with the Stourbridge side’s size, offloading and nouse. Everything seemed to be going their way in the second half as they managed to make breaks from even the most bizarre situations, such as when the ball flew out the back of a ruck the grateful prop went through a gap almost unnoticed and the replacement scrum half went right through the middle of a spoilt lineout to almost score in the corner but for good cover.
Thorp and Veebel both picked up scores in a profitable spell for the home side making it 15-48 on 59 minutes.
James Cross came off the bench and made an instant impact at the scrum, along with Vesanovs, and scored a nice try off a reverse phase giving Macc a try bonus on 63 minutes. Billy Robinson made a nice solo break powering through the midfield, and Matt Harrison came on to make his debut. As mentioned this was a performance with next year in mind and so the lads kept playing from everywhere and showed real heart, keeping Stour out until the end, for a 48-22 defeat.
This was always going to be an uphill task, coming to the ever intimidating Stourton Park with a young side, against a side with a lot of pace and power, but by no means did the lads disgrace themselves despite an unflattering scoreline. Macc have one last game this seasons, at home in 2 weeks against South Leicester who have also been relegated, but will look to give their youngsters more experience, all of whom did well on this occasion. If they go into National 3 with the level of commitment shown here today, along with some older heads and sprinkle of gold dust from a few new signings, then it should be a lived experience playing in the league below.
Man of the Match: Daniel Rundle (honourable mention to Sam Broster for Macclesfield)