MACC PACK DOMMINATE!
On paper this was a clash between 4th and bottom; Macclesfield avoiding a banana skin the week before at Morpeth, winning 13-10, and Ilkley picking up a much needed win at home to Carlisle. However, to the naked eye, in the opening stages, you wouldn’t have thought the Yorkshire side were the one at the foot of the table.
Ilkley enjoyed the majority of the possession in the first 8 minutes, breaking the line in their first attack, and missed 2 early straight forward shots at goal, before breaking through again to provide the impressive scrum half Morgan with an easy finish under the posts unchallenged on 7 mins (0-7).
That score appeared to awaken the home side, who took advantage when the visitors dropped the resulting kick off, won a penalty at the scrum, kicked to the corner and the maul powered over from short range with Sam Moss at the bottom of it (5-7).
Macc lost Matt Thorp to the sin-bin for a high tackle, despite the replay showing it might have been a case of mistaken identity, but it didn’t seem to affect the Cheshire side as from that point on much of the action was played out in the Ilkley half, and Macc generated a number of half break opportunities, but were unable to get over the line, due to some unfortunate handling errors at key times, before a series scrum penalties, 5m out, led to Thorp returning from the sin-bin to score from the base, on the stroke of half time (12-7).
This momentum shift may have proved vital but the visitors weren’t taking it lying down, as they broken from deep again too easily for the local fans’ liking, and made a real go of it showing good fitness and at times power in the carry, however where they were struggling was in the pack and a huge maul from the Priory Park side laid the platform for the backs to take the ball close, before Sam Moss picked over the line on 58 minutes (17-7).
If that hadn’t knocked the stuffing out of the travelling opponents, the next score did, as the pack laid the ground work again with a strong maul, before the ever exciting Sam Stelmaszek shot down the blind side after taking the ball from Sam Moss, in the scrum half position, running unopposed from 25m out to ensure the bonus point for Macclesfield and making it 22-7 on the hour.
Andy Appleyard’s team didn’t stop there either. In llkley’s pursuit of the try bonus point, they put a high number of phases together only for winger Dan Lomax to read the pass and intercept just outside his ’22 and sprint in unchallenged on 70 mins to make it 29-7 and just to put the cherry on the cake, a series of penalties allowed Macc to proceed up field and put to the corner and maul over again, with club stalwart Sam Moss at the bottom of the pile again to claim a hat-trick of close range finishes on the stroke of full time to make it 34-7 and Will Davies added the extras in impressive fashion with a quick-fire drop goal after the high wind blew the ball off the tee – 36-7 the final score. Moss’s experience and leadership, plus reliable set piece skills and work ethic are vital to the side which contains a number of youngsters and so he was our star man this week, but there are notable mentions for James Oliver returning to the starting line-up at 6, Morton who kicked well out of hand second half putting Ilkley on the back foot, the whole front row dominated scrum time and Matt Thorp was excellent at 8.
Macc will be delighted with the 5 points and the way the pack performed but may feel they left a few tries out there. There was more good news post-match as league leaders Billingham suffered a second successive defeat (27-12 at home to Rossendale) and only sit 5 points in front now, Macclesfield move to 3rd after Blaydon were beaten 7-0 in the local derby at Alnwick.
When Head Coach Andy Appleyard was asked if he was could ask for any more than 36-7 against Ilkley and the 5 points, he responded: “No, really happy, obviously looking at the first half we were under it a little bit, but I felt it coming, and at half time we had a good review, the lads pitched in identifying some good work-ons, we put those in place and everything started to happen for us and we were really pleased with the second half definitely”.