York 32 – Macclesfield 22
By Stephen Branch
Macclesfield took the M62 over the Pennines for the return fixture against York on Saturday. In fact, the day had started cold and grey, with the journey being delayed because of a hard frost in York and a frozen pitch. The Macclesfield squad waited for confirmation that the pitch would be playable for a 3pm kick off, before leaving. The coach eventually set-off only to be held up by an accident on the motorway which resulted in the squad arriving at Clifton Park just after 2pm. Happily York have floodlights so it was agreed to delay the kick off until 3.15pm to give time for the team to get the journey out of their legs and most importantly to give time for the Alikadoos to have lunch!
Macclesfield travelled with a depleted squad this week, particularly in the front row, but this presented a great opportunity for Tom King to make his comeback and for James Cross to win a starting place for the first time. With Sam Stelmaszek back at Scrum Half, Alex Davies moved out to the wing and in Harry Blackwell’s absence Pete Milne stepped in to the centre.
Milne and Laing battling for yards
York kicked deep in the Macclesfield half from the kick off and the ball changed possession twice before York won the first line out of the game inside the Macclesfield 22 area. York tested the Macclesfield defence, from early on, with some good direct running in the forwards and using the width of the pitch in the backs. Macc gave away a penalty after 4 minutes to put York in the lead by 3-0. It was stale-mate for the next 5 minutes with the ball being played between the 22 metre lines; until Macclesfield again worked the ball back into the York half, and following eight good phases of play the referee blew for a penalty to Macclesfield, which Harry Oliver kicked to level the score at 3-3 after 10mins.
York kicked deep and forced Macclesfield to work the ball back up the pitch. Sam Stelmaszek was finding his rhythm at scrum half and delivering fast, straight passes to his outside half, with Pete Milne carrying well in the centre. But it had lead to nothing and a penalty was given away, enabling York to kick for the corner and put Macclesfield back in their own half. York was now pressing their attack home and using the width of the pitch well to bring their wingers in to play, with the York number 11, Sam Elliott, being a constant threat out-wide. After pressure deep in the Macclesfield 22, York was awarded a penalty, and took the lead 6-3 after 18 minutes.
It was back to ping-pong as both sides kicked the ball up-and- down the field until Macclesfield eventually won a lineout, only to lose it and allow York to force another attack. Some good defence resulted in Macclesfield winning the ball back and having a chance to assert some attacking pressure of their own; but Macclesfield lost the ball in contact and York were able to press forward again. At this point the York side were having more success in getting across the gain-line than Macclesfield, and looked more threatening on the ball. Macclesfield had opportunities with the ball but were very lateral and not gaining the same forward momentum when in attack. The Macclesfield scrum was stable and able to disrupt the York pack making life a little difficult for the York scrum half at the base of the scrum.
A clever backhand pass sets the speedy York winger free for a try
The ball was constantly changing hands, and a lot of the game was being played between the half way line and the 10m lines. Macclesfield gained the upper hand in this war of attrition until Alex Davies was dragged in to touch to give York a line out just outside their 22m area. No threat, one might say, but York won the lineout and sent the ball quickly down the line, Macclesfield bit-in, which released their flying winger Sam Elliott, who ran 50 metres, avoiding two tackles on the way, to score under the posts at the 30 minute point in the game. The conversion took York further ahead 13-3.
Macclesfield responded well from the restart and showed skill and determination. The forwards controlled the ball, allowing Stelmaszek to quickly release the backs, the ball was transferred quickly, giving Alex Davies the chance to use his pace and touch down for a try, to take the score to 13-8. In the 38th minute just before half time York were awarded a penalty and surprisingly opted to kick for the corner and take the lineout. It paid off, as the lineout created a running line that sliced through the Macclesfield defence to take York, 20-8 ahead as half time came.
The second half did not start well for the Macclesfield boys, the kick from York went deep into the Macclesfield half, and was caught and cleared back up the pitch, only to find the speedy York winger in space; needing no invitation he showed great pace and balance to run the ball in-between several Macclesfield forwards for his second try of the day, to take York ahead by 27-8 just 2mins into the second half.
Phil Laing finds a gap for Macclesfield’s third try
The somewhat makeshift Macclesfield side continued to show great determination and forced a penalty which Harry Oliver kicked long in to the corner. Macclesfield won the lineout and began to put serious pressure on the York forwards from the catch and drive. The rolling maul took Macclesfield up to the York 5m line where Macclesfield were awarded a scrum. Josh Redfern picked the ball up from the base of the scrum and the ball found its way out to Alex Davies who ran a try in at the corner to bring Macclesfield back to 27-15 on 50 minutes. Macclesfield continued to show their determination, Phil Laing was carrying well and taking the opposition on and Myles Hall was equally determined to break down the York defence, Tom King had come on and was making a difference at prop forward. Macclesfield won the ball at a York lineout and took the attack back in to the York half forcing York to give away a penalty close to their 5m line. A well-executed lineout enabled a training-ground move for Phil Laing to come off the wing and run a great line to score under the posts; Harry Oliver converted and Macclesfield were back to 27-22 with 20 mins to go. One converted try would give Macclesfield a win! York kicked off and Macclesfield worked the ball back in to the York half before the Touch Judge judged that Alex Davies’ foot had gone into touch. The away crowd gasped as the heavy footprint left behind showed that he was not even close to the line.
Captain Sam Moss not giving an inch
York was awarded a penalty and their full back booted the ball down to the Macclesfield 5m line. Macclesfield endured huge pressure close to the try line and the defence was terrific both in the narrow channels and out wide. Something had to give and in a desperate attempt to win the ball Harry Oliver was penalised for a deliberate knock on and sent to the sin bin for ten minutes, with just 15mins left of the game. Macclesfield remained under serious pressure, close to their line, with York winning two more scrums, but the Macclesfield defence held. York sent the ball wide but the Macclesfield defence found a way to deliver try saving tackles. The pressure began to tell and with 9 minutes left in the game Phil Laing went off injured. Finally, from another scrummage, York found a way to cross the line for another try to take the score, and the game, away from Macclesfield at 32-22. With 6 minutes to go Macclesfield needed two scores to win and one to take away a losing bonus-point. York kicked the ball for territory to keep the play in Macclesfield’s half, with Macclesfield having to work hard to try and build an attack. Macclesfield worked their way into the York half and were rewarded with a penalty. Harry Oliver kicked for the corner; Macclesfield caught the ball and drove for the try line only for the referee to decide that the ball had been held up over the line with 2 minutes plus injury time left on the clock. York cleared their line from a drop kick under the posts and Macclesfield had to attack again. Both sides were fighting hard, despite being tired and the York defence held. Frustration on both sides resulted, and a harmless fracas, before a final scrum was awarded to York. They cleared their lines but Macclesfield were not out of it yet. One last play, a lineout to Macclesfield but it was not to be; York won the throw-in and kicked the ball out of play for the referee to blow his whistle, the score-line was 32-22.
The Head Coach’s Summary
“Wilkey, there’s never been a season like this, we were already without, Billy Robinson, Harry Harding, Aaron Wilman, Brendan Berry, Jordan Simpson, Harry Blackwell and Tom Morton, and then on Friday we lose Josh Degroot and Seb Pemberton to training ground injuries, and to top it, Tom Burden also broke his arm against York, that’s three broken arms – unheard of! Don’t get me wrong, the boys that stepped-up did really, really well, but there’s only so much you can ask.
The difference was small margins, whilst on the whole we defended very well; we were lacking a couple of times at key moments. So many changes also means that the set-pieces don’t function quite as well, which then can put your attacks on the back-foot, that said, when we got it right the attacking was very slick.
Hopefully, we’ll have some players back in contention against Sandal and more for the home game against Billingham”.
What is evident is that if Macclesfield could field anything like their strongest side, they would be more than a match for any team in this league. Next week Macclesfield travel to Yorkshire again to take on Sandal, where a team from the Walking Rugby section will be playing a pre-match curtain-raiser (I shall be taking my boots, Ed.).
Macclesfield leave it late again!
Macclesfield 2nd XV 22 – Burnage 2nd XV 16
By Paul Jakubowski
After an impressive away win at Preston Grasshoppers last week, the 2nd XV welcomed Burnage to Priory Park; arriving off the back of a big win over Rossendale. After late call-ups to the first XV, Macclesfield had to juggle the starting line up with a new centre pairing of Tom Blackwell and Hector Tomlinson, whilst Issac Reaney moved from wing to start at flyhalf. Having lost in a close high scoring encounter at Burnage in October another close encounter was anticipated.
In the early part of the game Macclesfield looked to move the ball, and mixed up the play well between the forwards and backs. Continued pressure forced Burnage into conceding penalties, allowing Isaac Reaney to convert one opportunity to give Macclesfield a 3- 0 lead. Macclesfield continued to press but were unable to break down a solid defence. With Reaney growing into his role, an opportunist drop goal from him increased the lead to 6-0. Carl Droy and Dan Martin both made breaks but were stopped short of the Burnage line and Macclesfield were unable to move the ball from the resulting break downs, which would have potentially resulted in tries. Both Burnage and Macclesfield had players yellow carded,Macclesfield’s for retaliation, the Burnage player for foul play which probably warranted a red card.
On the occasions that Burnage had the ball they were easily dealt with by aggressive defending from the centres and the forwards with Ev Wynne, James Board and Dale Crompton (after his enforced 10 minute rest) standing out. Burnage were able to convert a penalty to make it 6-3, and were then controversially awarded a try, after a break allowed the right wing to move into space. With his foot clearly in touch he evaded a defender to score under the posts to make the score 6 – 10.
Macclesfield replied with a penalty again converted by the busy Reaney, before Dan Martin, who had an excellent all round game made a break from a scrum in the Burnage 22 to score, which was again converted by Reaney to make it 16 -10 at half time.
Macclesfield started well after half time, with some aggressive drives from the forwards, but were unable to capitalise on the pressure they created. Burnage were defending narrowly but Macclesfield were unable to capitalise on this and move the ball out to the wider channels. Burnage continued to concede penalties and had a second player sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes, Macclesfield opted to kick penalties on two occasions, but were unable to convert either of them.
The game was now turning into a scrappy affair with both sides conceding penalties at the breakdown, the introduction of some strong forward subs from Burnage led to them being more aggressive at the breakdown, but they were unable to make any breaks against an increasingly solid defence (to a man no forward took a step back all afternoon) they were able to force Macclesfield into conceding penalties though, two of which were converted to make it 16 – 16. This Macclesfield team though has great spirit, and determination and after last week’s late win they know what is required to grind out a result. The late arrival of Lloyd Smith-Coates (who’s warm up was a bike ride to the Club) injected some go forward with some typical strong runs, sucking in defenders and allowing the halfbacks to move the forwards up the pitch, Burnage now started to concede penalties under forward pressure and Issac Reaney was able to close the game out by calmly converting two in the last 5 minutes of the game; the final Score 22 – 16. Not a game for the purist, the forward effort was impressive throughout and the defence by all was excellent. This is a young team with great spirit, and some talented players who are continuingly looking to improve.
Macclesfield 3rd XV 10 – Broughton Park 2nd XV 33
By Simon Grant
Macclesfield 3rd team had by far their sternest test of the season when entertaining a very well organised Broughton Park side, who sit top of the league and unbeaten.
I would firstly like to thank both John Poyser and Jason Walker for stepping up from the 4th team 20 minutes before kick off so we could field a competitive front row for the first time in 3 games.
Although perhaps not having the mobility, both players scrummaged superbly along with Elliot Jones, the scrum was rock solid and caused the opposition some early concerns.
From the start Broughton took their driving Maul well into the heart of the Macc forwards, and despite valiant defending from the back row of Max Dempsey, Sam Bancroft and the outstanding Jonny Thomson the opposition scored an early try which went converted.
Broughton kept the pressure on looking for the second score but it didn’t come immediately as Pat Ellis, James Meredith amongst other continuously knocked the opposition back over the gain line.
Macc started to take the ascendancy, gradually clawing themselves back into the game, but a couple of misplaced and dropped passes meant missed opportunities to score. In fact Broughton Park scored again completely against the run of play after a breakdown in midfield.
Macc did hit back just before half time to score a well worked try by Danny Briggs in the corner.
With all to play for in the second half, unfortunately Broughton raised their game to a level that Macc couldn’t cope with, scoring 3 quick tries in a 20 minute period. This period not helped by two very strange yellow cards for decisions on the field that nobody could quite understand.
In the final 15 minutes Macc were outstanding, John Poyser scored an excellent close quarter try after a well worked line out and Rick Hopkin was unlucky not to score in the last move of the game after some superb play in the backs by debutant Oscar Johnson and Louis Gray, who are starting to shine in the centres.
The two Broughton coaches spoke to me afterwards and had nothing but praise for Macclesfield, this being the toughest side they had played against all season. The future is bright for this group of young enthusiastic players.
4th Team struggle against youth and speed
Macclesfield 4th XV 5 – Didsbury Toc H 24
The fourth team played very well against a younger and quicker side who eventually amassed four tries to only one by Macclesfield. The try they did score was one of immaculate teamwork and featured a beautiful backhand pass from Louis Smith having drawn two defenders before off-loading to Matt Price, the receiver had plenty to do before dancing past three defenders to touch down for a contender of try of the season.
Jeremy Bostock had assembled a strong squad whilst allowing some of his regulars to move into the third team. Jason Walker had an unusual afternoon playing the first half for the thirds and on being substituted at the interval then joined in very effectively with the 4th for the second 40 minutes.
Encouraging appearances by Keiran Merriman and Rob McLeod for the first time this season were welcome returners, they aggressively bolstered the team. The set pieces worked well, Mike Broadbent, Rufus Dixon and Mike Dale conceded nothing in the scrums illustrating that in front row play experience will always prevail over youthfulness.
In the line-out Tim Kerr and Boz cleaned up possession of their own throw-ins, thanks to Rufus’s accuracy of delivery and the back row trio, the aforementioned Louis and Matt along with Charlie Hogg showed their metal and defensive turn over skills.
The visiting side were in the position of having one of their senior club side’s game cancelled, there was a feeling that perhaps they had drafted in two or three ringers to bolster their strength. Over seasons teams get to know each other’s personnel so the appearance of new faces playing a brand of rugby above this level does usually show through.
But Macclesfield stuck to their task, Pete Hardman in the centre tackled heroically nullifying so many of Toc H attacks; and wingers Asher Bryden and Ruaini Blaney followed Hardman’s example.
Last week’s half back pair Paul Smith and Matt Bowden were also very sound, however later Matt did express his preference to play in the Number 12 position where he has more space to operate, but needs must.
Next week Bostock takes his side to close neighbours Congleton, these two know each other’s styles well, even some of them from both sides have played for the other teams when their own don’t have a fixture, so some friction could develop as over familiarity and previous misdemeanours get remembered.
There is no report from the 3rd XV, who went down 10 – 33 to Broughton Park 2nds.