Written by Luke Murphy
On Saturday, third place Macclesfield faced fourth-place Harrogate at Rudding Lane.
The backdrop of picturesque woodlands added to what was a great game of Rugby between these two promotion candidates.
Unfortunately, it was Harrogate who left with the spoils winning 18-13.
The first points of the day came in the 3rd minute for Harrogate, courtesy of a penalty kick from Sam Fox, in front of the posts. The Harrogate forwards imposed themselves from the start forcing the Macc defence to concede the penalty.
Macclesfield hit straight back in the 7th minute through Jordan Simpson. A strong scrum only five metres out put the Harrogate defence on the back foot, leaving enough space for Simpson to go over and the conversion was scored by Mr Reliable, Will Davies.
The Macclesfield side-line must have been worried when Sam Stelmaszek stayed down, clutching a shoulder. With some sighs of relief, he got up seemingly unscathed and remained on the pitch.
Just before the 15th minute, a penalty was gifted to Harrogate, due to a Macc defender not wrapping the arms in a tackle. From 22 metres out, straight in front of the posts, Sam Fox scored with ease to cut the deficit to one point.
In the 26th minute, Harrogate took the lead through a well-worked try. The ball went through four sets of hands before being met by a hard-line, ran by the centre, who then fed the ball out wide to the winger Sam Parry who dotted down in the corner. The conversion narrowly missed, leaving the home side up 11-7.
With some relief, Macclesfield hit back three minutes later through a penalty kick from Will Davies. A Harrogate forward was penalised roughly 30 metres out for not releasing the ball after being tackled, 11-10 Macclesfield trailed.
The score stayed the same up until half time, 11-10 to the home side, but it could have been very different. Harry Oliver had been tackled into touch milliseconds before he put the ball down in the corner.
In the context of the match and how tight the game had been, that try-saving tackle was monumental.
To note, Harrogate’s wingers, both shut down set pieces to stop Macc from playing with width most of the match.
In the 64th minute, Macc earned a penalty and Will Davies scored the shot at goal. The period from half time to this point had been the longest period of the match without any points.
In terms of Macclesfield’s league matches this season, this had been a relatively low scoring affair. The scoring being limited throughout the game was a testament to how well drilled both defences had been.
The next score would be vital, unfortunately for Macc, it proved decisive.
In the 71st minute, Sam Brady managed to squeeze his frame over the line after numerous pick and carries from the breakdowns. The conversion was scored by Sam Fox and it pushed the score out to 18-13 in favour of the home side.
Over the last ten minutes, Macc had most of the possession and territory but could not punch through the Red and Gold brick wall.
Harrogate closed the game out through one out carries followed by kicking the ball out as soon as the referee called time. The ball itself disappeared quicker than a pie around a forward post-match.
The result itself does reflect on how close the game had been, although 13 points do not show justice to how much possession and territory the Boys in Blue had.
The defeat ended a streak of three consecutive bonus-point wins.
Although the loss may be hard to take, positives could be seen clearly. The scrum dominance for Macc was on view for everybody to see over the 80 minutes. The lineout also functioned well bar one short lineout that found Harrogate hands.
Phil Laing also made a big impact, displaying good running lines and support play.
Finally, it had been refreshing to see a young backline
play with maturity. If Macc can sharpen up they’re finishing product, games like today will fall the right way.
Next for Macclesfield is a home fixture against Carlisle. If the previous home games are anything to go by, it should be a full house this coming Saturday, so bring along a friend, family or just yourself and get amongst the faithful.
We at Macc Rugby club have a slight feeling some wrongs from last Saturday will be put right.
Thirds defeat Warrington
The Thirds suffered from a lack of numbers again, taking the field with thirteen men and a loaned player. Spectator Andy Pierce found some boots and joined the fray in the second half as injuries took their toll. Tom Leicester opened the scoring with a penalty in the first five minutes. Simon Grant scored the solitary try in the second half, reaching for the line after cutting in from the wing. Tom Leicester converted the extras.