By David Wilkinson
The North Premier had a rest week on Saturday, which I understand is based upon player’s welfare, in the return-to-rugby, following the long period of non-contact rugby during the Covid pandemic. The break will certainly benefit some of the players carrying injuries as well as those returning from longer-term injuries. Besides the first team break, the 2nd team started a 3-week break without a game, which according to Team Coach Russ Tomlinson, is far from ideal. The third team were also left without a fixture as Manchester was unable to field a side, a worry given Manchester’s intentions to climb back up the leagues.
Billy Robinson started his rehabilitation from a long-term knee injury, by having a run-out with the Fourth Team, in the only game that was played on Saturday. His best pal Sam Moss looked on, with a vested interest, and he no doubt chastised him in the Sin Bin later, for passing the ball when there was still another 20 metres to the try line. That said, it was good to see Big Billy back in boots, and hopefully on a charge back to full fitness.
With no big-match to report on, it makes a timely opportunity to reflect on the Club’s pathway for players wanting to progress to the highest level of their capabilities. As Bob Jenner has written about, since the Club first played rugby 147 years ago, players have progressed, to County, Senior Clubs and even international level; but the real Club pathway started with the introduction of the Mini and Junior sections 50 years ago. In more recent years the Club has seen the pathway work exceedingly well, playing for the 1st team recently: Sam Moss, Billy Robison, Franky Barker, Tom Burden, Sam Broster, James Hampson, Matt Thorp, Phil Laing, Pete Milne, Dan Percival, Lloyd Smith-Coates and Harry Blackwell; plus the sons of previous Macc legends: Harry Harding, James and Harry Oliver, and Will Davies. Combine these players with the other home-grown players on the fringe and the Club has a bounty of home-grown talent.
U16’s squad, the future for Macclesfield
The pathway starts right back at Tag Rugby; many of the current U16 squad have already played rugby together for 10 years. The U16s are coached by Rob Davies and Ben Bridgewater along with a number of other Dads. Rob told me how well the boys are doing: “We have a squad of 45 boys, which is unrivalled; many of our other local clubs have struggled for numbers since Covid, whilst our boys stayed together during lockdown, with some still doing extra gym work”. The bulk of the squad is made up of boys at Kings School although there are 11 schools represented in the squad. Their results so far this season are very impressive with wins against Oldham 59 – 0, Winnington Park 45 – 5 and on Sunday beating Manchester 56 – 12. Rob Davies pointed out: “As we have such a large squad there is a considerable rotation of players, as such the teams fielded are in affect B teams.
On an individual level they have an unprecedented number of players that are achieving success beyond their Club games. Nine of the boys are part of the Sale Sharks Development Group, a player pathway into the Sale Shark’s Academy. The Development Player Pathway is a joint initiative between Sale Sharks, England Rugby and the Cheshire & Lancashire RFU. The purpose of the DPP is to provide an early experience of talent nomination, identification and a development programme with a focus on skill development and acquisition, game understanding and the physical components that help a player unlock their potential.
U16 UR7s players from MRUFC
Five of the U16 boys made the UR7s Development Squad, with 3 playing in the final for the North of England at Twickenham beating the South, a proud day for the young Macc Lads. On top of this they are Cheshire champions, which took them to Twickenham and they have Freddie Griffiths who was selected to play for the Welsh Exiles on Saturday against Llandovery College, winning 22 – 10. Rob says that they are a tight-knit group; they clean the changing rooms after themselves and are starting to be proactive in their training sessions.
U16s Hooker Freddie Griffiths, selected to play for Welsh Exiles
The transition into Colts Rugby is not so simple, as there are a large number of boys at Kings School, those that make the 1stXV their will have a conflict playing for the Club and School. Thankfully the connection continues at Kings with Macclesfield Forwards’ Coach Rick Jones and Back Row Forward Matt Thorp. Some players are also naturally lost if they go off to university, although many try to mix between Uni and Club rugby.
It’s to be hoped that of the current squad of 45 U16s a good number manage to transition into the Junior Colts. Russ Tomlinson who coaches both the 2nd team and the Junior Colts is pleased how it’s going so far, but as he says like a lot of other coaches, it’s not been easy keeping the boys together through the Covid period, added to which Colts become of an age where they are looking for a wider social experience. The team is now in a league with: Oswestry, Rochdale, Altrincham Kersal, Stockport and Southport. Their first game away in Wales was a good result winning 35 points to 5, this was followed up with a game at Rochdale where the tables were turned going down 40 – 5. Russ commented: “I’ve told the lads, to not forget about that game, it’s a learning curve, and you can take some positives from it; on the Thursday training we created ‘The Honesty Huddle’, I left the boys to talk amongst themselves to talk about what they could have done better. From that we went on to play Altrincham Kersal winning 41 – 5. The boys were playing well, so I switched a lot of players into their secondary positions; I’ve always said to them that you can’t just have one position.
The squad is very small at the moment, with one player boarding at Denstone and several within the Kings School set up. Russ says in reality they only have about 18 players to call on: “It’s a small squad but the boys are mad-keen, two are involved in the Sale Sharks Academy and they are all keen to progress and join in with the Senior Squad sessions when the time is right”.
Some of last year’s Colts have gone on to Uni, whilst others have integrated into the third team. Sam Brown played in one of the 1st team warm-up games and acquitted himself very well, as a winger he is very quick; he’s now recovering from some shoulder surgery, but will hopefully be challenging for a spot on the 1st team as the season progresses. Another from last year’s Colts is Alex Jakubowski, who is currently doing very well playing on the wing for the 2nd team, as Russ puts it: “He’s got a good eye for the line”, my cruel response being: “Better than his Dad then!”
Here Phil Mason reports on the Colts match on Sunday.
MRUFC JNR COLTS 22 – SEDGLEY TIGERS19
Captain Haydn Keogh, Man of the Match performance
The Junior Colts arranged a friendly fixture this weekend, hosting Sedgley Tigers. From the kick-off Macclesfield took control and dominated the first 10 minutes. However a long pass on the 5 metre line resulted in an intercept by Tigers, and a full length of the field try, converted successfully giving Tigers the early lead.
The restart saw Macclesfield pick up from where they left off, dominating the game and holding Tigers in their own 22. For several minutes the Tigers’ defence forced Macclesfield to make several handling errors, however despite this, Captain Haydn Keogh broke through the line, picking a spot in the corner for a well deserved try.
More dominance from Macclesfield after the restart, pinned Tigers in their 22 again. Facing some fierce defence Macclesfield played the phases from the 5m line, keeping their discipline and eventually taking the rewards, as hooker Tom Wilmot drove over the line, leaving the score 10 – 7 at half time.
The second half started well for Macclesfield. A creative and well weighted cross field kick from Fin Usher was picked up by Lucas Axton, only for a slip to end what was a fantastic move with the ball going into touch. Tigers won the lineout and some strong forwards’ play saw the tables turned, with Macclesfield now on their own 5m line defending hard. A quick pass from the back of a ruck saw Tigers go over and convert – Macc 10 – Tigers 14.
Macclesfield dug deep to regain dominance, being rewarded with two further tries in quick succession from George Murphy and a second for Haydn Keogh. Macclesfield retook the lead, and with a consolation try in the last seconds of the game to Tigers, the final score was 22 – 19.
FOURTHS HIT TOP-FORM IN THE SHIELD
Macclesfield 4th 77 – Bowdon 3rd 7
Terry Robson turned up late with his pen and pad but Jeremy Bostock, quickly got him up to speed, Terry reports. On a beautiful afternoon, perfect for fast open, Barbarians style, rugby, saw the fourth team dominant in every phase, score 11 converted tries to overwhelm their rivals, and in doing so, progress to the second round of the NOWRIUL Shield. They were watched by a large crowd who thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle.
Captain Jeremy Bostock, himself unfortunately a spectator this week, owing to an injured knee, had assembled a very strong side. They contained some new faces: Tom Leicester and Ollie Wilson at numbers 10 and 15 respectively, and Billy Robinson on his own return from injury before taking his return in the senior sides.
Early tries by Leicester, prop John Poyser, Tim Kerr and Paul Smith alerted the visitors to what was in store, however they did show their own mettle to break out from their 22 and run the whole length of the pitch to score a converted try of their own.
Fourths climb high before scoring their fifth try
The third quarter was fairly even, so Macclesfield introduced try scoring Fergus Green to replace Simon Street and Elliot Jones for Matt Burton. These changes spiced up the home side and as Bowdon tired, five more tries were scored to make the result appear one sided which is unkind because the fixture was a good contest until the closing 10 minutes.
Tries by Jones, Matt Price and Wilson quickly followed, then, Ryan Brown watched by his Granddad, wife and three children ran from half way to touchdown. The best try of the day was scored by Harry Grant after the ball-carrying Smith, running quickly, drew the last defender, before unselfishly delivering a perfect pass to the scrum half, gaining huge applause from the spectators.
Bostock was thrilled with his side’s afternoon’s work. He reiterated his oft quoted statement that forwards win matches, backs only decide by how many points! With such an experienced heavy pack including Mike Dale and Jim Welch they secured the ball and the exciting back-line revelled in the open space. Peter Hardwick, as is normal, had an excellent match in both attack and defence.
Next week is a return to League fixtures with Congleton, our near neighbours being the opposition at Priory Park. The team is in buoyant mood, and eagerly anticipate continuing their winning streak.