Otley 11 – Macclesfield 9
By David Wilkinson
No one had come close to beating Otley all season, their 100% record had been well won, beating all-comers, home and away. Back in September they had despatched Macclesfield 24 – 58, with an exceptional performance from their full back Ben Magee; it had been a bad day at the office for Macclesfield, losing their Captain, Tom Morton, with a broken arm. It took time to get all the ducks back in a row, the pack firing as it should do in the tight, and the back-line restructured without their skipper. Besides a blip at Rossendale, the Macc lads had re found their feet after a big win against Kirkby Lonsdale. As they went into the Christmas break they knew that they could give Otley a good-run-for-their-money!
But just two days before kick-off there was a chance that the game might have to be called-off. Macclesfield were left without all three recognised hookers and cover at Prop. Utility forward Tom Burden stepped up to the mark, having played in the front row for Israel, and he didn’t disappoint. It was a very wet coach journey up to Otley’s Cross Green ground, and their club President couldn’t have been more accurate, at the pre-match lunch, exclaiming: “It’ll teck a stud”!
Alex Davies just beaten to the ball for the only try of the game
The boys in blue made a very bright start, attacking from deep, as they had done so successfully at Alnwick, but a mix-up between the two Harry’s in the middle, was adjudged to have been blocking and Otley were able to relieve the pressure. Otley worked their way deep into the Macclesfield half, putting together phase after phase but the defence was solid and Otley were forced back to the halfway line, with their number 12 Irvine running backwards to find space. Seeing that the Macclesfield defensive line was up, and pressing, he put in what appeared to be a speculative chip; it looked like the Otley back-line must have been offside, but they had got away with it, and right wing Roberts was winning the race. The forever-chasing, Alex Davies, was covering from in-field, and it was difficult to tell who would get to the ball first, as it flopped on the muddy surface, but the out-stretched boot of the winger took the ball out of Alex’s grasp; and with no need to cut-his-stride Roberts just beat Myles Hall to the touch-down, and Otley were 5 points to the good after 18 minutes.
Macclesfield went back on the attack winning a penalty wide-out on the left, Harry Oliver’s confidence to go for goal was well judged, with another laser-targeted stoke between the posts. This was followed up with another, after Harry Blackwell was taken out, going up for a spiral-bomb; Oliver’s monster kick from 45 metres sailed through. The valiant visitors kept the pressure on. And Otley were forced into another mistake presenting Harry Oliver with the chance to cement Macc’s lead; once again his judgment was perfect as the ball bisected the sticks.
After 20 phases Alex Davies gets under the ball to prevent the try
What then followed was absolute attrition from the Otley pack, but it was met by an immoveable force in the determination of Macclesfield’s defence. Otley’s canny coach, sent on, both a fresh second row and prop for an attacking scrum; and it seemed to work, as for once they got a nudge on Macclesfield’s pack, winning a penalty. They went again, but this time Alex Davies was alert to the danger nipping around the scrum to wrap-up his opposite number. This would morph into yet another phase as Otley set-up camp in Macclesfield’s red-zone, ten phases followed and as they dived over for the score, who came up with the ball but Alex Davies. The goal-line drop-out offered little respite, as Otley ran the ball back, desperate to regain the lead before half-time. 20 consecutive phases of play followed for Otley, with relentless pick-and-go charges for the line, but the line was not to be breached; and running out of ideas, Otley flung a speculative pass out wide, only for it to be knocked-on. Otley trudged to the changing rooms, the Macc Lads had a spring in their step, they were 9 -5 up!
Otley’s no.5 comes in from the side, which many thought should have given Macc a kick at goal and the game
The second half started with Otley back in control, they kept Macclesfield pinned in their half of the field, but were still unable to break the line, until on 23 minutes the visitors were penalised in a kickable position, and Otley got 3 points to their credit. Macclesfield were again forced to defend in their half, and from a smart break down the blind-side of a scrum, Otley recycled quickly catching most of the defensive line offside; it was an easy kick for Otley to retake the lead. There was a mere six minutes left on the clock, and the Otley players went, quite rightly, into slow-mo; but Macclesfield would have one last chance. From a penalty they got deep into Otley’s half and set up a series of rucks, the clock was in the red, and from what would be the last ruck, the Otley big second row, appeared to join the ruck from the side, picking the ball out in the process, before it was cleared into touch – Otley’s ‘Fat Lady’ had had the last word.
It had been a fantastic effort from the Macclesfield players, the game being lost to the finest of margins, against a very efficient and tactically astute Otley side. Head Coach, Andy Appleyard, had nothing but praise for the players: “They put up a phenomenal performance, defending on a very heavy pitch, which was exhausting to play on. Otley won the toss and chose to play downhill in the second half, and they really used the slope to their advantage, it made it very difficult for the boys to relieve the pressure. The unavailability and injuries had made selection very difficult, but the boys did really well, selection will be difficult against Preston next week”
Harry, James and Josh, well muddied
It has been some time since all four sides managed to fulfill fixtures on the same Saturday, and hopefully we can keep that up, although I suspect that there will have been several students back home for Christmas bolstering the ranks.
The losing bonus point gained at Cross Green, doesn’t change a lot at the moment, but it could make all the difference at the end of the season. We are a long way off the promotional spots now, but no one will know just how many teams will gain promotion, with the implementation of the new structure in National 2, of three regional divisions of 14 teams. If the team has no more serious injuries, we will only get stronger, and the players can rightly set the target of not getting beaten again this season. It all starts with a sumptuous fixture against Preston Grasshoppers on Saturday. I will be at a kilted wedding in the Highlands, but I will leave a fully charged “Whaa-Hoo” machine at the ready!
Macclesfield 2s in action against Caldy
Macclesfield 2nd XV 7 – Caldy 2nd XV 36
The 2s started brightly, taking the lead against the league leaders, after a driving maul from a lineout. Nick Jones was on hand, supporting Macc and his son Nick, previously of the Blues, now playing out of Canada. Even though they lost, Nick was enthused by the lads’ determination: “For the first 20 minutes Macc had the better of the fixture, with some clever attack and ball handling in the torrid wet muddy conditions, securing the first converted try from a line out – Whilst under the cosh, no backwards steps were taken by the Blues, but unfortunately an otherwise solid defence was breached”. Nick, as always, had his camera at hand to record some of the action.
Whilst it didn’t go Macc’s way, according to Nick and others, this didn’t diminish from the fun that was had by all, happy to be playing rugby again in 2022.
Macc and Caldy muddied 2s
Knutsford 7 – Macc 3s 24
By Simon Grant
Due to a late hitch on Saturday morning, with a positive lateral flow test, I was unable to attend Saturdays 3rd team match against Knutsford so the report unfortunately this week has to be virtual (Make of that what you will)!
The match was due to be played at Knutsford, but a late call by them on Saturday morning, confirming a waterlogged pitch, meant the fixture was reversed and played at Priory Park. With the distance so short between the two clubs Knutsford had kindly offered to travel, like ourselves having not played since 20th November they were desperate for a game.
Macclesfield 3rd team had already confirmed with the opposition that the game would have to be played with uncontested scrums due to front row players not being available. Both teams started brightly with Macclesfield scoring the first try by centre Danny Briggs under the posts, which was converted by Ben Bowden. Knutsford retaliated within a few minutes due to a miss understanding in defense scoring under the posts to make it 7- 7. Macclesfield then started to pile on the pressure with the mobile pack of George Hodkinson, Rick Hill and Jonny Thomson starting to stamp their authority all round the field.
A second try followed for Macc 15 minutes into the game with Jonny Thomson breaking from the back of a scrum, passing to Harry Grant who missed out the full back, joining the line, passing directly to the winger who touched down superbly in the corner.
From there on, Macclesfeld were on top, for the rest of the match with further scores coming from George Hodkinson and Will Richardson. Thanks must go to Knutsford for offering to travel across to Macclesfield at the very last minute, so that everyone managed to enjoy a finely contested game played in a great spirit.
Macclesfield 4th XV 41 – Ashton Under Lynne 19
By Terry Robson
This was the first outing since mid November, seven weeks without a fixture due to Covid cancellations and inclement weather. Nevertheless they showed no signs of rustiness or lack of fitness playing with drive and aggression to score seven tries. The victory was sweet as when they played at Ashton, back in October, the Macclesfield players were convinced the home side fielded first team substitutes to steal a win.
Jeremy Bostock had the luxury of a full bench of replacements to compliment his starting XV. The captain had returned all the way from Cornwall on Friday to take charge and was delighted with the victory. The back row of Joel Whitehurst and try scoring duo Matt Price and Simon Street were mobile and robust in both attack and defence. The engine room of Tim Kerr and Bostock himself worked so hard in the set scrums that after the interval the visitors requested unopposed scrums, as a defence limitation exercise.
The front row had a complete new set of players amongst the replacements. The starting line up of: John Poyser, Rufus Dixon and Mike Broadbent were withdrawn and Mike Dale, Geoff Chan and Chris Howell came on for the second half. This in no way diminished the effectiveness of the Macclesfield pack of forwards..
Louis Smith substituted for Simon Street and immediately made an impact scoring his first try of the season adding several crunching tackles. The Smiths, Nick and Paul usually star at half back but with neither available Matt Bowden and a different Nick Smith kept the three quarter line moving, Glenn May and James Keep weighed in with two tries each. Pete Hardwick, such a strong runner showed his versatility whilst winger Ruaici Blaney and Rick Hogg demonstrated speed and evasiveness with penetrative running.
And now we’re in the New Year youngster Jamie Downes is at last allowed to play, he made a welcome addition to our team.
The skipper congratulated his whole squad in the dressing room afterwards, the post match euphoria following a very good win shows such buoyancy and satisfaction, this is one of the main reasons why the group of 22 guys turn out in often deplorable conditions every week; they travel to Bury next week.