HOPPERS’ LAMPREY HAS THE EDGE!

Macclesfield 13 –   Preston Grasshoppers 26

By: Bob Cooke

1st team rugby returned to Priory Park on Saturday for the first home match since 18th December and hopes and expectations were high after Macclesfield had narrowly lost to the league leaders, Otley, in a valiant away encounter last Saturday. Visitors, Preston Grasshoppers were expected to present a stern challenge as they are 3rd in the league having only lost twice, once to Otley in September and at home to Alnwick in early December. When Macclesfield played Preston Grasshoppers in early September they had lost heavily 42 – 14.  On Saturday, confidence among players and spectators was high due to the marked improvement in results since that September fixture.

Macclesfield, despite several key players remaining on the injured list, put out a strong side, welcoming back skipper Sam Moss who missed the Otley trip. Sam Stelmaszek was selected among the replacements, his first match back after injury since the match in Alnwick in March 2020.

Josh Redfern climbing high in front of a packed Stand

Preston Grasshoppers kicked off and after several driving moves the ball was put into the Macclesfield 22 from a chip through to touch from Alex Ward the Preston stand-off.  Macclesfield won the lineout and cleared the ball to touch near their 10m line. Preston won the lineout and drove into midfield where with a deft inside pass, Browne, the Preston winger, burst through, getting close to the try line.  From the pick and drives by the forwards Toby Harrison crossed for the try and the first score on 4 minutes. Alex Ward missed the conversion.

From the kick off Macclesfield immediately put Preston under pressure and although they were able to clear the ball to touch, from the lineout Macclesfield again drove downfield to maintain their momentum.  Once again the ball was cleared to touch by Preston, but from the lineout Macclesfield drove downfield again until a penalty was awarded to Macclesfield for a “no arms” tackle on Billy Robinson wide on the Preston 10m line. Macclesfield opted to kick for goal, but Harry Oliver hit the post with his strike. From the Preston clearance the ever-industrious Alex Davies at scrum half ran the ball back and chipped ahead only for Preston to reach the touchdown first.

From the goal line drop-out James Oliver fielded the kick and ran the ball back at the Preston, being tackled on the 22. Preston were penalised for the high tackle which offered a second chance for Harry Oliver to open the Macclesfield scoring with a shot at goal, but it was pulled wide.

Preston’s penalty count began to climb as from the 22 drop out, as Macclesfield drove the ball back into the Preston half, their flanker Harrison, was adjudged to have played the ball on the ground. Harry Oliver kicked for touch in the corner. From the lineout Macclesfield repeatedly went through the phases with forward drives and running from the backs.  The Preston defence held up well and Macclesfield could not find a way through. Macclesfield were awarded the 5 metre scrum from the breakdown, but lost the ball at the back of the scrum.  Preston cleared the ball up field, but Macclesfield again drove it back as they carried repeatedly deep into the Preston half. It was during one of these attacks that Billy Robinson was upended with what appeared to be an illegal tackle, he left the field shortly after, to be replaced by Brendon Berry. Macclesfield continued to have the initiative and the majority of the possession but seemed unable to capitalise on it and get onto the scoreboard, until they were awarded a penalty under the Preston posts, for a Preston player entering the ruck illegally.Will Davies scored the goal to pull back the Preston lead to 3 – 5 with 20 minutes gone.

From the kick off, as sometimes happens, there was a momentum shift and Preston began to dominate the play and for the next 15 minutes play was in the Macclesfield half with Preston pressuring hard and this resulted in two penalties against Macclesfield for pulling down the maul and illegal entry into the ruck. The pressure continued as play reached the Macclesfield try line where Brendan Berry was penalised and yellow carded for not being onside when making a tackle and in the maul.  With Billy Robinson already off the field injured, Macclesfield had no prop to bring on, so the scrums moved to uncontested for the remainder of the first half.  Preston pressure was then turned into points as Matt Lamprey, the Preston number 8, drove over for the first of his three tries.  Alex Ward added the conversion; Macclesfield 3 – Preston 12.

For the closing five minutes of the first half play returned to the Preston half and Harry Oliver was able add a further 3 points to the Macclesfield tally to take the score to 6 – 12. Oliver did have another chance with an unsuccessful penalty kick just before half time.

As the teams went in for half time, Preston Grasshoppers would have felt the more confident with two tries and a conversion from less time spent in the Macclesfield half of the field, while Macclesfield were considering the missed penalty kicks and opportunities not taken.

As the second half began Macclesfield were trying to make inroads into the Preston half, but the Preston physicality, combined with Macclesfield errors, saw play move deep into the Macclesfield half.  Preston began to dominate play with several attacking phases by their backs that were defended well by Macclesfield. Preston were held out until after 10 minutes of the second half Matt Lamprey broke from the base of the scrum on the Macclesfield 22 making valuable yards before passing to his scrum half who was finally bundled into touch. From the Macclesfield lineout the ball was overthrown into the eager hands of Preston’s, no.5, Aly Murray who flopped over the line for a simple try.  Alex Ward added the conversion to stretch Preston’s lead to 6 – 19.

Within minutes Macclesfield suffered another blow as Brendon Berry left the field with a broken arm.  As Macclesfield had no prop to replace Berry, it was uncontested scrums once again for the remainder of the game;  Berry was replaced by Tom Burden.

Harry Oliver scores Macclesfield’s only try

Half way through the second half Macclesfield put together the move that saw them score their only try of the game. From a scrum between the Macclesfield 25 metre and 10 metre lines the ball was taken forward into contact by Will Davies and from the breakdown, brother, Alex Davies made a break down the blind side and then chipped ahead. The ball was set up by Preston, but the scrum-half’s clearance was charged down by Tom Brand and from the bobbling ball in the air Harry Oliver caught it and dived over the try line.  Will Davies succeeded with the conversion to move Macclesfield within one converted try of Preston Grasshoppers 13 – 19.  The score clearly revived Macclesfield as for the next period they kept the initiative repeatedly attacking Preston to try and get that elusive score that would put them ahead. It was not to be; Preston were a match for the Macclesfield drives and met them with a solid defence from where they launched attacks of their own.  With 10 minutes to go Macclesfield’s James Oliver was penalised and yellow carded for a “no arms” tackle. From the Preston penalty kick to the corner they won the lineout and Matt Lamprey drove over and completed his hat trick of tries.  Alex Ward added the two points with the conversion; Macclesfield 13 – Preston 26.

Dejection, as Matt Lamprey goes over for his second and the match.

That is how it ended.  There is no doubt this was a better performance than the match in early September between the sides but Macclesfield were left considering what might, or even should have been but for the missed kicks and errors, when in the Preston Grasshoppers 22. With the injury early on to Billy Robinson, Macclesfield lost a key ball carrier, and with Harry Harding still on the injured list they were sorely missed against a physical Preston Grasshoppers side.

As a postscript, Billy Robinson’s suspected broken rib is possibly, less seriously, cartilage damage after his tip-tackle, but Brendan Berry has a confirmed broken arm. Head Coach, Andy Appleyard, has Aaron Wilman and Tom King returning to training this week to bolster the depleted front row ranks.

Preston Grasshoppers 2nd XV26 Macclesfield 2nd XV 29

By Paul Jakubowski 

Carl Droy’s last minute try sealed a deserved win against the league’s second placed team. The score capped off a fine performance by the 18-year-old who also scored in the first half. Having lost to the league leaders the previous week a tight encounter was expected as the two sides had drawn 24-24 earlier in the season. The seconds took a strong team to Lightfoot Lane but  fell behind in the first quarter  missing tackles and allowing a well organised team to take a  12- 0 lead. This has been a theme during the season and as ever the boys produced a response.  The experienced centre pairing of Pete Milne and Sam Broster started to cause their opponents problems and the back row of  Ev Wynne Sam Jones and  Ben Hadfield   were  supporting and making  good line breaks. Forcing Preston to concede a penalty at the breakdown  in the 22  the resultant lineout  led to  a series of forward drives allowing  Ev  Wynne to crash over to make 12 – 5 with Tom Jennings  converting.

Macclesfield continued to pressure Preston and a second penalty was conceded by the home side, from the line out the forwards put together a series of drives  which were well organised and controlled and eventually Carl Droy  crashed over which again was converted by Tom Jennings  12- 14. Macclesfield had the lead.  Preston responded  and used backs and forwards cleverly  and were well marshalled by their half back pairing. Macclesfield were now starting to concede penalties at the breakdown and were losing territory to Preston. Preston  chose to kick at goal from one but hit the post,  which the alert  Droy  caught, beat two  players  as he broke out and was  only caught on  the halfway line allowing pressure to be relieved.

The Preston half backs were using the quick ruck ball supplied by their forwards well. Macclesfield conceded a penalty in the 22, Preston chose to scrum and  after a series of pick and  goes  Preston scored  and converted to  make the score  19- 14 at half time.

Preston started the second half brightly but their attacks were repulsed by some determined  tackling with  Elliot Alston driving  the Preston centre  backwards  with one hit. Macclesfield worked themselves back into the game with good inter play between the forwards and backs.  Some quick recycling of the ball at rucks allowed Tom Jennings to make a break under pressure,   he offloaded to Alex  Jakubowski  who did well to beat his  man to score in the corner. Jennings converted to make it 19 – 19!

A jubilant 2nd team after winning at Preston

Neither side were able to exert long periods of control in the last twenty minutes of the game. Macclesfield knocked on from a lineout and from the resulting scrum, quick hands from the Preston backs enabled their centre to score which was converted to make it 26 -19.  From the kick off Jakubowski leapt high to re-gather the ball, good recycling  and quick ball allowed  Sam Broster to score to bring the game back to two points.  With the clock counting down Macclesfield continued to press with forwards working hard to keep and control the ball from  drives and pick and goes. Tom Jennings made an arcing break but was held up short of the line.  From the following scrum a controlled series of drives allowed Carl Droy to seal the win; Final score 26 – 29.

Crewe & Nantwich 2nds 7 – Macclesfield  3rds 34

By Simon Grant

Macclesfield travelled the short distance to Crewe for their match on Saturday with a very capable squad of 17 players, albeit without a front row for the second consecutive Saturday which meant uncontested scrums from the start.

After the warm-up the game started brightly for Macclesfield as they shipped the ball out quickly from an early ruck with scrum half and captain Harry Grant passing to the full back Ollie Luckman who in turn passed to Louis Gray who burned passed his winger for an early try in the corner which went unconverted.

As Crewe had the much bigger & heavier pack it was obvious from early on that their game plan would be based around the pack and after a great defence by Macclesfield Crewe evened up the score after a number of close quarter rucks & mauls. Try converted to make it 7 – 5.

The pitch was sticky and energy sapping so after discussions within the Macclesfield ranks the intention was to move the ball out wide.

Crewe continued to probe around the fringes but ran out of ideas as the Macclesfield defence stood firm with Sam Bancroft, Rick Hill and Max Dempsey magnificent in the back row. Aled Williams playing at prop for the first time in 2 years was everywhere in the loose and certainly looked as though he wasn’t a scrum-half playing out of position! Elliot Jones had a great all round game but was particularly good in attack, probing at the opposition defence and always making the gain line.

As Macclesfield gained position in midfield Pat Ellis made a direct run to the 10 metre line and set up a ruck, Harry Grant picked up from the base, feinted left and then darted between two fringe defenders and broke through the covering full back to score under the posts: conversion by Oli Wilson, 10 – 5 to Macc at half time.

The second half was all Macclesfield, Crewe never got into the Macclesfield half again. Pat Ellis scored an opportunistic  try from a Macclesfield line out, followed shortly afterwards by a trade mark break from Rik Hopkin at Fly Half who easily outpaced his opposite number and the inside centre for a great individual score.

With about 20 minutes to go the evergreen James Keep & Nick Smith came onto the field, the latter to replace Chris Effingham who went off after a bang to the face.

The final score came after David Kirk broke from his own half and kicked through for what looked like a perfect score for him until the bounce of the ball took it away from him, and Louis Gray backing up from centre dived in just beating the covering defence to touch down.

All in all a very satisfactory result; and a good warm up for next week’s encounter at home to high flying Broughton Park.

Bury 2nd XV 17 – Macclesfield  4th XV 7 points.

By Terry Robson

Macclesfield played very competitively in a good open game of rugby.  They faced a much younger side who really ought to have run the ball at every opportunity to exploit their own speed.  Afterwards even the referee commented that the hosts did little to benefit from their youth and speed.

Captain Jeremy  Bostock paid tribute to his boys and felt their defence was extremely  good as they tackled well and forced plenty of turnovers to negate Bury, showing their experience by winning the set pieces.

The scrummages were remarkable.  The Macclesfield front row; Mike  Dale, Rufus Dixon and Jason Walker were very strong taking four of the opposition feeds against the head.  In modern rugby this is unusual as scrum halves are allowed to feed the ball in a manner that it’s  not necessary to hook the ball backwards.

The second row forwards; comprising Bostock and Craig Price worked tirelessly, whilst the back row of Jamie Downes, Nick Foster and Louis Smith ran belligerently with ball in hand.

Glenn May at full back started very well but he had to leave the pitch injured after 20 minutes.  This led to a reshuffle, Nick Smith switched to No 15 from fly half, which many observers consider his best position. Nick Smith enjoys the space and freedom to run.  Matt Bowdon moved from centre to second receiver and he scored the Macclesfield try.  Paul Smith at scrum half enjoys working with Bowdon and  they form an excellent partnership.

Wingers Asher Brydon and Ruaini Blaney who covered well, Pete  Hardwick in the centre and Carl Downes all had a really good game.

Skipper Jeremy Bostock was not downhearted with the defeat, in fact he was pleased with the manner in which everyone played.  All the players prefer these close contests  rather than an easy victory.  In the post match huddle he congratulated everyone on their graft and application.

This is a team that understands rugby, how to stifle younger opponents by using their power and experience to advantage.

The Macclesfield 4th XV returns to Priory Park on Saturday where they will face Didsbury Toc H.  The away fixture against Toc was a victim of Covid cancellation so this match is one in which the Fourth will hope to be victorious.

#maccrugby

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