A Festival of Rugby in the sun

Whilst Wilkey was away on family duties, Chairman Stephen Branch actively took part in the Priory Park Festival of Rugby, joining in, in several of the contests, and the hospitality etc, but still had enough puff left to pen a few words about Saturday’s rugby.

Macclesfield Rugby Club celebrated the return of rugby with a fabulous festival of rugby over the weekend involving every age grade, gender and type of rugby played at the Club. Outdoor hospitality was available from the Sin Bin bar area and they strictly followed Covid regulations. The various teams/groups of players represented each of four houses, as they did last year: Lions, Blues, Pirates and Wolves; and all match results were recorded with a winner to be announced at the end of the event on Sunday.

The Senior Club players kicked off on a bright, sunny Saturday morning with the Walking Rugby group displaying their skills on the main pitch. This group is over 40 strong and the standard of their skills is improving all the time, although the concept of walking quickly as opposed to running, for some, is a difficult concept to grasp. It is fantastic to see the fundamental principles of rugby being applied to this relatively new game and to witness the enjoyment and enthusiasm demonstrated by the group which is a broad mix of abilities, some completely new to rugby and some ‘old hands, of all ages, and mixed sexes.

U-15s lineout practice back in the session

Next on was the Touch Rugby group; this group meets every Thursday on Club night between 7 pm and 8 pm and also has over 30 members. Many of the players in this group are still active in the 15-a-side game but a significant number come to play Touch Rugby only. The group turned out in good numbers for the festival and split into mixed-sex and mixed-ability teams. The players from the Ladies’ squad, who took part, were particularly impressive in the skill level demonstrated by many of them. The ladies are always looking for new players of any ability to join them in their Development League. The games were fast, entertaining and played in great spirit. The sense of fun was palpable; the players clearly enjoyed the games and the banter, and many took full advantage of the outdoor hospitality afterwards.

The stage having been set – it was now the turn of the senior 15-a-side players to display their skills in the Ready4Rugby format of the game.  The skills on display from all the squads from the firsts to the 4th team were most impressive. The handling on the show and the speed of the game was, at times, breath-taking. It was also fantastic that people were able to support the touchline and cheer their favourites on.

The first/second team squad is back in training on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in preparation for the return of full-contact rugby later in May and the players are excited about the return of competitive rugby using the adapted laws in May and for the return of scrums and maul early in June.

At the end of a great day of rugby and outdoor hospitality, The Pirates were at the top of the Leader Board with everything to play for across the Junior Club sections on Sunday.

Terry Robson, our pre-Covid Clubman, made it down to the Club on Sunday to report on the Junior section’s fun and games. I’m sure Terry will have been very excited to be back down at the Club with his pen and pad at the ready. Terry is a salt-of-the-earth rugby member, ex-player turned referee (never made a mistake), marathon runner, rugby tourist, cyclist and all-around good egg. Sadly, he took a nasty tumble earlier this year, breaking his femur – but I’m sure that won’t stop him! This is what Terry had to say.

U-9s ready for action

Sunday was a beautiful warm, sunny, spring morning and Priory Park was alive to the raucous voices of rugby coaches as 350 boys and girls of the MRUFC Colts, Junior and Mini Sections went through their drills and practise moves.

The whole scenario from the Clubhouse balcony was very impressive, all four pitches were in use and the young players were obviously thoroughly enjoying themselves with parents watching the proceedings and envisaging their offsprings eventually playing rugby at their highest level possible.

Phil Mason has been Chairman of the Junior and Mini Section for six years and has overseen the blossoming of this group of youngsters.  He is delighted the Club can attract such numbers to Priory Park on a Sunday; telling Clubman that his Coaches and their assistants are wholly responsible for all this enthusiasm.

Many of the Coaches are current players or former players at Macclesfield, and most are parents of the boys and girls in their care.  The tried-and-tested coaching tier system that Phil uses is for a team of Coaches to stay with their players, through all the age groups to Colts.  For instance, Kevin Macey, himself, a talented player, started with his own Under 6 squad which included his son Phil and took all these girls and boys right through to the Colts; when his grandson Ralphie joined the fold, Macey restarted at under six-level again and now this generation of his family is playing with the under tens and Kevin is looking forward to bringing him right up to Colts Rugby.

Each group has its own incentives to play for every week, including the player of the session, who receives a statuette, and the side scoring the most tries gets a healthy ovation of applause from their peers.

In the younger age groups training is very much touch rugby, contact starts at under 10 with line outs and scrums at U14.  Right now, due to Covid restrictions, scrummaging isn’t allowed.  This is an RFU dictate and will remain in force within all layers of club rugby (except Premiership and Championship) until the pandemic abates.

On Sunday, before the games kicked off, the whole section of players and coaches lined up on the first team pitch to honour Nigel Rosser who unexpectedly died last week, to give his memory a minute’s applause. Nigel had been a Club member for 35 years; his daughter Amanda was Club Steward and is a player with our Ladies team.  She and her two sons Haydn and Austin were emotionally moved by the tribute and the photo of all the girls and boys illustrates the entire club’s appreciation and esteem with which Nigel Rosser was held by Macclesfield Rugby Club.

Stephen Branch summarised the weekend. The festival weekend demonstrated everything that is good about rugby in general, and about Macclesfield Rugby Club in particular. The players across the age-grades from U6 to 60+; The senior Ladies; The walking rugby and touch rugby groups turned out in good numbers to participate in a fantastic and entertaining weekend of rugby. The membership and supporters of the Rugby Club enjoyed the entertainment and participated fully in the hospitality. Rugby at Macclesfield is most definitely back and the Club is looking forward to advancing through the next stages of the roadmap over the next couple of months.

If you are interested in joining the Rugby Club as a player or as a social member please go to the website and/or contact the Rugby Club. All the information you need is available on the site. Alternatively, just come down and join us on a Thursday club night from 7pm when the Sin Bin is open, and food and drink are available.

Head Coach Andy Appleyard had this to say: “What an amazing weekend, it really does highlight the One Club ethos when you see players from every team involved in a Club wide competition. The senior squad teamed up with the Colts & a few older heads and enjoyed a good run out. Good to see plenty of ball in hand and high effort on the work rate but the best thing was to see all the boys with smiles on faces”.

Competitive rugby is scheduled to return in May with two friendlies against National 2 side Sheffield Tigers. The first is at Door Moor on Saturday 8th of May, with the return fixture on the 15th May at Priory Park, full details to follow.

Weekend Rugby Round-up

Premiership Rugby returned on Friday night with a big win for Northampton Saints, Mitchell at 9 will have impressed Jones, as will have Hassell-Collins for the Irish. After a fortunate start, Exeter turned the screw on Wasps to run out 43-13 winners. Harlequins again demonstrated their ability to break the line, with Smith once again pulling the strings for a 50 – 26 winning performance against Worcester. Bristol had a difficult start, but they had too much class up at Newcastle Falcons.

Closer to home Sale took on Gloucester with a bright start by Faf de Klerk going over, followed by a clinical midfield move involving Sam James and Aaron Reed; Reed being rewarded with a second start on the wing, scythed through the defence in a 50-metre dash and making a long reach for the line to score, with several defenders hanging on. On 23 minutes Sale were reduced to 14 players after a tip-tackle by Rob du Preez, they hung on valiantly winning 25 – 22.

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