By David Wilkinson
The pre-match hype billed this contest as ‘The game of the season’, 1st versus 2nd, a win for either side setting them up for the rest of the season. But what unfolded deep into the 2nd half, at times, looked more like top versus bottom; although by this time Macclesfield had become ragged by injuries and Yellow Cards. The game had started very brightly for the league leaders, phase after phase they recycled the ball deep into Otley territory looking for a scoring opportunity, but a cut-out pass was telegraphed by Otley’s 10, Callum Irvine who intercepted the pass, sprinting 60 metres un-opposed to score.
Simeon Meek, on debut, goes over for the first try
It wasn’t the end of the world, and after sustaining a series of attacks by Otley a 50/22 by Tom Morton gave Macclesfield a lineout deep in the 22. Simeon Meek broke from the ensuing maul to barge over for a try on his debut; and converted by Alex Davies.
What happened next was a sign of things to come, Otley’s 15, Ben Magee, took-off deep in his own half, beating the first tackler then using his pace to outstrip the defence, although he was caught on the line, Gavin Stead picked up to score. A penalty to Irvine followed, after a high tackle to make it 7 – 15; Davies followed up with a penalty to make it 10 – 15 after 30 minutes. Pressure in Macc’s 22, resulted in a try for Hooker Luke Cole following a lineout maul. The score at half-time was 7 – 20.
Minutes into the second-half and Ben Magee set-off on his forth attack from deep, his blistering pace and acute angle kept him clear of the defence, beating a man on the line to make it 7 – 25. The momentum was now clearly with Otley, and when Captain Tom Morton left the field injured, Macclesfield would have their backs to the wall. Alex Davies was yellow-carded for not releasing and the pressure mounted.
Scrum after scrum followed with Otley in total control, however every wheel of the scrum was deemed by the Referee to be the Macclesfield Props not pushing straight. A criticism not lost on the Otley pack, as every scrum thereafter wheeled. The referee made his point by yellow carding Brendan Berry and Macclesfield were reduced to 13. Another wheel at the next scrum made it easy for the Otley 9, Joe Rowntree to scamper over.
Alex Davies’s chip and chase for his first try
When Macc had the ball they were still competitive but once Otley got close to the try line again their driving maul made it easy for Cole to get his second. Macclesfield were now back to 15 and with a penalty advantage Alex Davies chipped over the defence and gathered for an excellent individual score.
Otley back in the Macclesfield 22, took advantage of an overthrow the ball ultimately reaching Ben Magee who easily rounded the now tiring defence to score. Undaunted Macclesfield went back up the pitch and winning a penalty, 10 metres out, Alex Davies quickly tapped to himself, and darted over to score.
Quick thinking by Alex Davies creates his second try
There was now a reasonable chance of a bonus point and Macclesfield went through phase after phase in their own half, until a kick deep into Otley territory found the quick-silver Magee again, who ran it back to the try line, passing to 14, Henry Roberts, to score. Roberts would put the final nail in the coffin to score his second on his 100th cap for Otley.
There was no mistaking the strength of Otley, they have recruited well and will be very difficult to beat in the North Premier. Andy Appleyard was philosophical in defeat and pleased that the lads didn’t drop their heads: “We were competitive in the first half, but injuries and two yellow cards took their toll in the second”. What was obvious was that playing against a side like Otley, with only 3 replacements is a very tall order.
After this week’s reality-check Macclesfield will need to get the boys back to fitness and ready for the second biggest challenge, away to Preston Grasshoppers on Saturday. Kick-off is 2.30 pm; please try give the boys your support at Lightfoot Green.
Last week, had been an unprecedented situation, where no games below first team had been played due to opposition cry-offs and unavailability; with second team captain Russ Tomlinson having to cancel their fixture. He will have been pleased they got back on the pitch, his short report follows.
Caldy 2nd XV 46 – Macclesfield 2nd XV12
Macclesfield travelled with a bare 15 to high-flying Caldy in search of their 1st win of the season. It was always going to be a massive challenge playing against a side that had Nat 1 fringe players in it. But this didn’t faze the Macc lads one bit. From the first to the last whistle the lads were warriors in defence, solid in the scrum and always had a go in attack. Caldy showed finesse in their back line and ran hard all day. They were able to roll-on replacements. which was a massive advantage, as the Macc lads showed signs of fatigue in the closing stages of the match.
The team definitely played with pride and did the Club proud. Special mention must go to Jim Curtis who rolled-back the years and put in an 80 minute shift!
Next week Macclesfield host Preston Grasshoppers @ Priory Park.
Team spirits are high and a ‘W’ is definitely in sight!
THIRDS NICK IT AT THE DEATH
Macc 3rd XV 43 – Knutsford 38
The third team had a close encounter to neighbours Knutsford, with Club sponsor David Marchington telling the tale of his son’s winning try, in the Sin Bin bar on Saturday evening; here Matt Bowden tells his tale, in his own particular way.
On a glorious September Saturday afternoon, the Mighty Macclesfield 3s took to the pitch full of confidence. This new look team was scattered with youth, and a blend of grey-haired elders (apart from Simon Grant, who still has a suspicious full dark head of hair) from days past.As expected the game started at a furious pace, and the youngsters linked well. Bowden Snr was in a panic when his agoraphobia kicked in, finding himself in an unfamiliar situation on the wing, luckily, Bowden Jnr (Ben) appeared in support to finish off the last few yards and open the scoring.That seemed to spur Knutsford into action and they hammered the Macclesfield try line for the next 25 minutes. Tries were exchanged, as were a few handbags. Our front row was strengthened by the return of Effiy (Chris Effinfham), and the ever present Elliot Jones. When Pete Langley appeared from the bushes, the scene was set. They were ably supported in the second row by the man mountain Gareth, who was playing his first game in 4yrs, following his extensive training routine of touch on Thursday before the game (excellent performance!). Gareth’s partner in the engine room was none other than the mighty Dom McCarthy, his flamboyant runs and skirmishes, deep into the Knutsford defensive line caused the opposition problems all afternoon. That was until he pulled his gluteus maximus, which would have sidelined many, but not McCarthy, who pushed on and still managed to dominate the contact area. The back row of Callum Wright, Jake Robinson and Dempsey (Max not Simon) had a field day in the loose. The gazelle like Wright was one of the crowd’s favourites, his elusive running and uncompromising tackle technique pipped him to MOM in a close battle with McCarthy.
Robinson at 8, had some powerful runs from the back of the scrum, ably supported by Dempsey (who terrified their 10 all afternoon) setting up some lovely platforms for Nik Smith to feed the ever youthful Rik Hopkin at fly half. Hopkin, who had his own fan club, was blessed with a back line of U19 players (excepting the wingers!), the all rounder Louis Gray put in a very mature performance in attack, defence and with the boot. Mr Tommy Cross graced us with us his presence 10 seconds before KO, and showed what an advantage it can be to have a back row playing on the wing! As the afternoon wore on and the heat took its toll, a figure appeared from the mid September haze. Surely not, a mere few months from a motorcycle accident that would have finished many off James Keep. He parked up his stick, donned his boots and slipped into the backs like he’d never been away. An ambitious pass made him stretch every sinew in his (medium) body, which he ably took to feed Harry Marchington for yet again the winning score of the afternoon.All we had to do was collect the kick off and send the ball out of play. That was possibly the longest 10 seconds of the half as we watched the ball bobble over the touch line to the sound of the final whistle. It was another attritional team performance, right to the final seconds. We would like to thank the referee and Knutsford for an entertaining game, played in great spirit with a fantastic fan base.
FOURTHS STRONG IN DEFEAT
Ashton under Lyme 2nd 31 – Macclesfield 4th 17
When you’re the last team to call upon, losing players at the last minute can scupper your plans, and that was the case for Captain, Jeremy Bostock. He must have been disappointed on Saturday morning to find that his squad had reduced from 18 to 14. Here Terry Robson reports on the game.
There were some new faces in Macclesfield’s line-up as well as many regulars from pre Covid times. During the 18 months since their successful times back in 2019, several have turned 50; one of these, Simon Street, showed no diminution in his powerful ball-carrying skills bludgeoning his way over the line after a 20 metre powerful burst from the base of the scrum.
Peter Hardwick, this season a 4th team regular, showed off his attributes moving from centre to fly half and back, having an excellent game in both attack and defence. But the best man on the field was wing forward Jamie Downes, son of winger ‘Mad Dog’ Downes. Jamie at 17 was on his debut and helping the side because two players being called into the Thirds on Friday evening and three late cry offs.
Jamie had an excellent game, his top-notch tackling and covering illustrated great maturity. He’s still at Colts level and obviously has a long future with the Club. Dad was very happy with his son’s contribution to the cause.
Tries came from Michael Moore and Captain Jeremy Bostock, the latter following a 20 metre burst which he admitted later felt more like 40 yards as he was dragging two defenders over with him.
Macclesfield were winning with 15 minutes to go, however two players suffered injuries, one managing to stay on with much reduced mobility so they were effectively reduced to only 12 able bodied men. Ashton then brought on four substitutes who had started for their first team on the adjacent pitch, their own game having finished earlier; scoring three tries in the last 10 minutes to seal victory. This makes one wonder about the integrity of the principle of replacements at this level of rugby.
Nevertheless, Captain Bostock congratulated his team on their professionalism. Their set piece possession was very good, very positive good team effort was how he expressed himself with plenty to build upon for the remainder of the season; and he hoped newcomer Glenn May will recover from his groin strain by next Saturday as he showed such promise for 70 minutes.