Macclesfield gave their supporters an early Christmas present with a win over local rivals Lymm, after 2 defeats including the last minute sickener away to Rossendale and the plucky but narrow loss at home to table toppers Billingham.
The first half was, the old cliché of a tale of two halves, as the home side dominated the early exchanges, repeatedly turning over the visitors scrum and forcing mistakes on their exits keeping the men in green pegged back in their 22. It was 22 minutes before Lymm were able to escape their won half, but Macc will be disappointed they didn’t make more of that period only leading 10-0 despite dominating, as the stodgy pitch made for a raft of handling errors, combined with a slight sense of over exuberance in the red zone at times.
The Priory Park crowd were sent into raptures on 16 minutes, when Jordan Simpson picked up from the base of a scrum 5m out and powered over to finish on his own, in a like for like copy of his try at Rossendale the week before, to break the deadlock.
The maul stuttered but Macc were drilling Lymm at scrum time, and after being held up over the line twice, this layed the platform for the backs to show good handling skills and finish in the corner through winger Dan Lomax, playing only his third game of the season due to injury, to lead 10-0 after 27 minutes.
The more easterly of the two Cheshire outfits were cruising but appeared to take their foot off the accelerator, momentarily, when not clearing their lines on kick reception, and this glimmer of light allowed Lymm to swing the momentum for the remainder of the half. First Scott Redfern slotted a penalty on the half hour in the travelling side’s first venture in to the Macc ’22 and then poor discipline gave them several opportunities to maul from 5m out meaning the Macc lads were pegged back on their own 5m for the remainder of the half. There was controversy as the home side appeared to have repelled the kitchen sink that was thrown at them, when Tom Morton put the ball into touch believing the half time whistle had been signalled but the referee called for the lineout and from this Lymm pulled back within 2 points, Rasheed collecting Redfern’s cross field kick; 10-8 at the break.
Strangely Lymm must have been the happier changing room at half time given they only trailed by 2 points despite the onslaught Macclesfield heaped on them in the first 27 minutes. Macc head Coach Andy Appleyard must have preached about being tidier at the back to avoid inviting the kind of pressure his team endured before half time letting their opponents back into the game, and showing more patience in attack when in good field position.
After the break the home side appeared to have re-found their mojo and were picking and driving towards the sticks from 5m out and looking likely to extend their lead until the ball leaked out the back of a ruck and despite scrum half Sam Stelmazsek’s attempt to recover the ball, a Lymm foot managed to hack it down field reversing the situation. Myles Hall beat the chasers back to retrieve the ball but was turned over on his own line as Blue shirts back pedalled to provide support in vein, and Hadland scored when the ball was shifted wide, giving a hand gesture and some verbals to the defenders as he dotted down, in what was at times a bad tempered affair. So Lymm had turned it around to lead 15-10 after 52 minutes and the Priory Park faithful must have been suffering de jas vous from the Rossendale game.
Macc appeared to have learnt their lessons from the week before though, and were able to arrest the slide. Tom Morton’s good game management in particular through his patient kicking game pegged Lymm back while his pack, led by Josh Redfern, stole 5/6 lineouts in the second half meaning the last 20 minutes of the game went largely the way of the first 20.
On the hour mark Myles Hall started and finished a great counter attacking move, fielding a clearance kick which the backs ran back well, before Dafydd Rees made a great break through the middle, combining with Redfern who was brought down just short, and the ball was spread wide to Hall to finish (15-15).
There was no doubt who was in the ascendency now, as the pack grew in stature, aided by the introduction of the energetic James Oliver, prop Dan Percival and the powerful back row Matt Thorp. Lymm weren’t being forced into mistakes in their own red zone and the Macc scrum, which had wobbled a little in a short period of uncertainty, was back on top. Thorp made a huge carry from a 5m scrum before Morton’s cross field kick was gathered in by debutant full back Terence Longworth to put the home side ahead and earn a try bonus point (20-15 with 10 minutes left to play).
Morton’s men weren’t finished though, and the Captain kept his foot on Lymm’s throat continuing to put his side in the right area of the field. The pack stole yet another lineout just short of the line and after James Oliver’s pacey carry put Macc on the front foot; centre Sam Broster powered through to make the result safe, and Harry Oliver, on the day he presented his England Counties U-18’s shirt to the club, converted to make it 27-15.
Macclesfield will be pleased with the result after 2 disappointing results, but also to earn the local bragging rights. Also, this was Macc’s first try bonus point since Sandal away 6 games ago.
There were a number of strong performances to choose from in terms of star men, especially in the pack, with Redfern’s lineout working really well in attack and defence, Tom King was excellent at Loose head and later tight head prop, and young Harry Harding came of age in the second row playing the full 80 and utilising his size well, but Dafydd Rees playing at Open Side played his usual brand of rugby which looks like that of a man possessed, and was everywhere, breaking the line in attack, tackling hard and stealing the lineouts in defence , giving a great all round performance.
Macc will want to have a look at the Maul in training over the Christmas break and could still be more clinical, taking only 5 scores from 16 attacking ‘22 entries but the scrum and defensive lineout were massive for Macc in the first and last 20 as Lymm couldn’t get a foothold in the game, nor keep the ball, and the attack looked better in terms of ball retention compared to the week before, as did the game management.
Macc sit third in the Northern Premier table at the end of round 13, 2 points behind Blaydon and 1 point in front of Harrogate who have a game in hand, both of whom have to visit Priory Park in the second half of the season, while Billingham remain undefeated 13 points ahead of Macclesfield.
The next time the boys are in action is when they make the long trip to the North East, playing Morpeth on January 4th.