By David Wilkinson
It was far from ‘dour on the moor’ as 23 of the Macclesfield squad took on National Two outfit Sheffield Tigers at Door Moor.
It would be a tough call for the boys, who were of differing abilities being a mix of players from 1st and 2nd teams plus 3 young lads straight from the Colts. The format was 3 games of 30 minutes, but Sheffield Tigers, had over 40 players to call on.
The first 30-minute game was played against a Sheffield Tigers Development XV, which Macclesfield won. In pretty dour conditions Macclesfield was playing all of the early rugby, with Josh Redfern taking line-out ball and running well; a deft chip from the outside half Will Davies putting Macc’s right-winger Sam Brown in for the first score; Andy Appleyard commenting: “The game was a bit weird at times, particularly with no mauls at the line-out and with no scrums the ball was in play for long periods. I was very impressed with the three young lads making the transmission from Colts to Senior Rugby; Will Richardson at Full Back and Harry Marchington and Sam Brown on the wings, both of the wingers scoring tries”.
For the second 30-minute game Sheffield’s, Player-Coach, Jamie Broadly brought himself on with a further fresh set of players. Tigers were having most of the play until Macclesfield’s Sam Brown fielded a 22 drop-out on the touchline and after beating a couple of players passed to Harry Oliver who when tackled fed to Macclesfield’s Milne scored to put Macc 7-14 up. Josh Redfern linked well in the backs before Macc’s third try scored by Harry Marchington; Tigers going over before the end of the second session.
The last 30-minute game session saw Broadly’s full-strength side take the field. The Macclesfield lads were by now tiring and a few went to the bin, but the Tigers were still tested until they started to get their own way with ten minutes remaining, they went on to win this session and the overall score on the day. Andy had this to say: “I thought that the lads did really well, they really fronted up; Harry Harding and Matt Thorp put in the full ninety minutes, the lads did not look out of place at this level. Our recent defence work with Clive Griffiths paid off, and there was some good execution in our attacks out wide – some good decision making and some good link play between the forwards and backs”.
Andy said that it could be different again next week when the Tigers come to Priory Park; Macclesfield will be much stronger with hopefully a full squad. The format on Saturday will be slightly different with four 20-minute game sessions. Sadly, the stand and perimeter will be closed for supporters; although, as usual, the outdoor Sin Bin bar will be open for drinks and catering.
The long-awaited rugby news this week was the announcement of the Lions’ squad to tour South Africa; starting with a warm-up game against Japan in Scotland on 26th June, followed by 5 games in.
the provinces before 3 Tests against the Springboks finishing on August 7th. At this time, no supporters will be permitted, and this is unlikely to change. As such the only way to see any of the matches will be via Sky Sports. Whilst this will not suit all rugby fans it offers a good opportunity for Community Rugby Clubs, as all the matches are scheduled to kick-off at 7 pm, and by this time some, if not all, indoor Covid restrictions will be lifted.
Andy Appleyard and the team are no doubt hatching a plan for members to see as much rugby as they can at Priory Park; announcements to follow.
There has been considerable debate about the potential make-up of the squad, shoe-ins, bolters, etc; and when Jason Leonard read out the squad last week, live on TV, there were still plenty of surprises in terms of both omissions and additions. The spread across the home nations was quite even, with a few more Scotland and England players getting seats on the plane than expected. Of the surprise additions, 3 of the Saracens players have received the most questioning of Warren Gatland’s judgement: Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Elliot Daly, the latter looking particularly out-of-form in the Six Nations. Gatland will have made his final cut with considerable contributions from his Coaches; and one can only presume that they have been given their tickets through previous exploits, hoping that they will play themselves into form on tour. Some might say that this is a dangerous strategy – it hardly worked for Eddie Jones!
Whilst past exploits prove that you can perform on the big stage, form is the barometer that surely measures a player’s potential on such a short tour. Form has certainly been an issue for two of Ireland’s expected tourists. Both Sexton and James Ryan were seen as shoe-ins, but poor Six Nations’ form has put them on the backburner. On the question of form-players not getting a call, Ringrose, Johnny Gray and Slade must have been close and many were scratching their heads over Sinckler’s omission. I for one was hoping that Gatland would have gambled on a real in-form bolter such as Quins’ mercurial Marcus Smith. A lot could happen between now, July, and the first test, which is still 10 weeks away. On the whole, Gats has got the nod from the media pundits for his picks, although there is still a question mark over the outside centre options having enough guile and pace on the Highveld.
Friday night at the AJ Bell may have been a tad on the quiet side, for Sale Sharks convincing win over Leicester Tigers, but the Box Office is now open for the visit of Bristol Bears on Friday 28th May and the resumption of boisterous support! AJ MacGinty was in sniper form bisecting the posts on 6 occasions with tries from McGuigan and Yarde. Once again Sharks 13-man training sessions paid dividends as they went down to 13 men in 56 minutes; this after Claire Hodnett (TMO) had informed Tom Foley of Luke James actions trying to catch the ball “He’s never in a realistic position to catch the ball, therefore deliberate knock-on, and a penalty try”. Well, the nana-second before knocking the ball on, perhaps, but the thought in his head as he sprinted to get there and leapt into the air like a gazelle, I am sure was: “I’m going to catch that ball”. From the Premiership rugby that I watch, all of it, the Officials, in my opinion only get 50% of their calls right for deliberate knock-ons (Wayne Barnes excepted). Sale held firm with 13 men and finished strongly with Yarde painfully going over on the narrow side from a ruck.
Saturday started at the Gardens, with the full five points being won by Gloucester; Northampton not being able to raise their game, to compete in any department. Sam Simmonds showed his power getting two close-in scores for Exeter’s demolition of Worcester 41-10. Newcastle crossed 7 times against the Irish although they leaked four themselves winning 52-27. At the Rec Bath went two scores ahead but Bristol’s superiority showed as they fought back, Kyle Sinckler dominating his opponents and winning MOTM in the 20-40 thriller. The post-match interviews were too emotional for all those involved as they discussed Sinckler’s omission from the Lion’s Tour. Ugo Monya tried to explain the emotion of playing for the Lions, but he could barely get his words out.
If Saturday’s rugby was not exciting enough, Sunday would prove just how exciting rugby can get on a fast track. Harlequins and Wasps entertained rugby fans on TV in fine fashion with a twelve try thriller only a conversion splitting the teams on 81 minutes. Brown was red-carded after half-time for a boot in Tommy Taylor’s face, which could be a sad end to his long Quins career. With just a minute to go Wasps looked secure 41-46; but not for the first time this season Marcus Smith pulled the strings to perform some last-minute magic, quick inter-passing creating enough space for him to round the cover, and close enough to the sticks to make the conversion academic.