FIRED-UP MACC FLOOR BILLINGHAM

Macclesfield 16 – Billingham 6

By David Wilkinson

The squad will have worked hard during the week, preparing for the third clash against their Teesside rivals, but in the process they lost Josh DeGroot to a training ground injury. Otherwise the team was settled after the Sandal win in Yorkshire. Although Billingham had taken the spoils in the previous encounters, the team was brimming with confidence, and if the first charge by Harry Harding was a sign of what was to come, they were determined for the win.

Billingham can only look on as Josh Redfern scores the only try of the game

The early encounters were shared, with Billingham’s Captain and Coach showing off his deft kicking skills and Macclesfield spinning the ball along the line. After 7 minutes Macclesfield were awarded a penalty that, most in the Stand presumed would be easily converted by Harry Oliver, but full of confidence, it was kicked to the corner. Seb Pemberton, playing in the Second Row, caught cleanly at the front with the ball being quickly transferred to Josh Redfern, who, in typical fashion, barged over for the first score, which Oliver converted.

Twice Macclesfield put grubber kicks through into scoring positions, the latter looked as if Seb Pemberton had scored, but it was deemed to have been knocked-on in the process. At the next scrum the home side drove the visitors back at a rate-of-knots, but Dan Percival was penalised for not driving straight. The quickly taken penalty, followed by another, left a simple 3-pointer for Billingham’s Jobe Roxby; their quick thinking had been rewarded.

Macclesfield continued to get on the wrong side of the referee, with some of the Stand supporters accusing him of playing Tidywinks! Another quickly taken penalty drove play deep into Macclesfield’s half, James Oliver got locked into a ruck, which gave Roxby another 3 points. Macclesfield’s ill-discipline was keeping Billington in the game, with the score 7 – 6 after 26 minutes.

Caption: Harry Oliver fending off Peter Evans in one of the first-half attacks

It took a mere 2 minutes for Macclesfield to get back on the score-sheet; a typical tackle-breaking run by Harry Oliver forced Billingham to stray offside, that gave Harry the chance to extend their lead, which he took.

The stand would get upset again, when a hand-off by James Hampson on Peter Evans was deemed to be illegal. Roxby would have another shot at goal, so he thought, but the ball fell-off the tee during his run-up, and before he could replace it, Macclesfield were on him in a flash, hacking the ball away to safety. The laws in rugby union are complex, and some may have believed that the referee got it wrong. The law states that the defending players should stand still until the ball is kicked; a kick at goal after a try is scored is different, defenders may charge the kicker once he has started his run-up, however the referee on his mic is heard to say “he started his run-up”. If he had run out of his allocated 60 seconds to take the kick, it would have been a scrum to Macclesfield. Even the best referees can make mistakes!

Either-side of half-time Harry Oliver had taken long-ranged shots at goal, but neither was converted. The first half had been a stop-start affair; the referee was playing very little advantage, and Macclesfield could have been accused of butchering some of the opportunities that they had created. They had also given away far too many penalties that ultimately had kept Billingham in the game.

The second half saw the introduction of Tom King for James Cross at Tight Head, but injury would mean that the replacement was soon to be reversed, also Harry Harding left the field after all but a minute with a sore ham-string, being replaced by Elliot Alston. Macclesfield started brightly and it wasn’t long before Oliver had another pot a goal, this time he made no mistake creating a 13 – 6 margin.

Billingham went through several phases with the ball in hand, but in their desperation to find a gap they went 30m backwards before throwing a forward pass. At the scrum James Oliver went to number 8, it was evident that some kind of plan was about to hatch, it was simple; he picked and thundered straight at Billingham’s playmaker Peter Evans. Evans made the tackle, but at a cost as he hobbled away, it wasn’t the first time that Evans had been targeted. James Hampson then ducked under a tackle and made a good break to the 5m line, but Moss and Pemberton got in each other’s way and the referee deemed it to be crossing.

Once again Billingham tried to keep the ball in hand, but they struggled with the greasy conditions, in contrast Macclesfield were able to put several phases together until another piece of pedantic play by the referee at the ruck enabled the Teesside team to make a rare visit into Macc’s half. Thankfully the Priory Park faithful had not seen a great deal of Peter Evans’s silky skills until he outrageously passed the ball 30 m across the pitch with his foot into the arms of his left winger, who, thankfully, proceeded to kick the ball directly into touch.

Macclesfield then had a sustained period of pressure in their opponents 22, going through multiple phases, but Billingham defended well; a chip into the dead-ball area was marked, and Evans cleared down-field to Redfern who charged back into the waiting pack. He was tackled by two players, who lifted him off the ground carrying him several yards backwards, before driving him into the ground; punches were thrown and both he and their no. 4 left the field to cool down for 10 minutes.

It’s on its way to seal the game from Harry Oliver’s boot

With 13 minutes left to play Dan Martin came on for Sam Stelmaszek; putting in a good grubber kick from a scrum to take play to Billingham’s 22, where they then turned the visitors’ ball over and were back on the attack, and winning a penalty at the ruck; Oliver coolly slotted it between the sticks to take a ten point lead, and some breathing space with 7 minutes to play.  That would be the end of the excitement, Macclesfield were the worthy winners; the team had played the much better rugby in difficult conditions; where Billingham had found it difficult to hold onto the ball, Macclesfield had gone through protracted phases of play. To a man the squad had played well, James Oliver could easily have been awarded Man of the Match again, but it went to Fly Half James Hampson. Jammers had not played 10 since schoolboy days, and it’s a big ask to step into the playmaker roll at this level, but he’s making a very good fist of it. On Saturday he didn’t do anything particularly flashy, but he executed well and always got the line moving, keeping the team on the front foot and always making good yards. His illustrious opposite number got a poor service and was either rushing their plays or trying to play hi-risk rugby – and that was the difference.

A muddied MOTM, James Hampson with the President

Head Coach, Andy Appleyard was really pleased with how the team had done: “I was very pleased with the boys performance, there have been so many changes recently with injuries, but they stepped up to the mark again on Saturday against a very good side”. Next week Macclesfield travel to Blackburn for what will be another tough encounter against their third place opponents. Andy Appleyard will be hoping for some good news from the medical team this week to bolster the pack.

Captain Sam Moss, happy and muddy

Macclesfield 3s 64 – Manchester 2s 12

By Simon Grant

On a day not really suitable for a running game of rugby, Macc 3s took to the field against a massively improved Manchester 2nd team that had turned the corner with some decent performances and wins over the last few weeks.

With conditions looking to deteriorate as the rain fell, Macclesfield started the more positive as the forwards powered on over the gain line phase after phase with Dale Crompton and Callum Wright, playing his first game in 5 months, taking the game to Manchester.

All credit to Manchester who battled and defended brilliantly until Lloyd Smith-Coates scored the first of his brace, powering over in the corner with a short burst of his undoubted power from the 22 metre line.

As much as the opposition tried they couldn’t stop further scores, Carl Droy was magnificent in the loose along with Pat Ellis who continues to punch well above his weight, week after week. Ben Heginbotham, at outside centre, has safe hands and resilient in attack, and rock solid in defence. Aled Jones playing his second game of the season, and playing out of position in the 2nd row, was close to a man of the match performance, but that fell to Zac Bowden at scrum half who was excellent all over the park, marshalling his forwards brilliantly and scoring two tries himself. It was some performance from Zac, when one considers that George Hodkinson scored a hat-trick and played the game that he did with a fantastic all round game.

A sleepy ten minutes in the second half resulted in Manchester scoring two tries, but the result was never in doubt. Macclesfield scored 12 tries, George Hodkinson 3, Lloyd Coates Smith 2, Dave Kirk 1, Zac Bowden 2, Ev Wynne 2, Dale Crompton 1, and Carl Droy 1, a fantastic achievement in very difficult conditions.

Another player of note was Tom Leicester, instrumental at fly half both in attack and defence, surely destined to play much higher within the Club.

It was one of those days when everything stuck, both scrums and line outs went well, but more pleasing was the open and support play, not many teams in this league would have lived with Macclesfield on this Saturday afternoon. Many thanks to the lads who assisted from other teams in the Club as we battle with availability week in week out, namely John Poyser who again stepped up from the relatively slower pace of the 4th team to help us once more. It was also great to welcome newcomer Jon Drever who has recently moved up North to take over a pub in Alderley Edge, no doubt we will be calling in after an away game to test the hospitality – very soon!

Next week Macclefield 3s have no game but with the second team having an important double header I would implore all players available to help out where they can next Saturday.

Macclesfield 4th XV 13 – Vale of Lune 3rd XV 39 points

By Terry Robson

This week the fourth team had their rhythm upset because of several injuries, to the extent that Captain Jeremy Bostock had to work extremely hard on Thursday and Friday  to manage to assemble a squad to take on Vale.

 

Paul and Nick Smith the last time they won the Shield – there’s always next season

This was a fixture in the NOWIRUL Sheild, a competition in which Macclesfield were outright winners 10 years ago.  Actually a good nucleus of 8 players from that side are still playing for the team at approaching or over the age of 50.

The home side started well enough, when Matt Price plunged over the line for an early try following a driving maul from a line out catch.  This score looked like it was a carbon copy of the tries we are seeing in the 6 Nations Championship.

Before half time, Hector Burke scored a second try, after some very attractive passing along the back line, not at all easy in the wet and muddy conditions; then  Rick Hopkin kicked a penalty to give Macclesfield a half time lead 13-10.

However after the turn around, scrum half Paul Smith was forced to leave the fray, a heavy simultaneous tackle, by two big forwards gave him bruised ribs, the reshuffle brought Burke to No 9 and James Keep to fly half.

These alterations certainly upset the flow, and four tries were conceded giving the final score an unfair reflection of the difference between the teams.  Even when it was obvious that Macclesfield  were not going to win, their forwards still showed great resilience. Simon Street was especially noticeable driving the ball forward and tackling tenaciously; even when he’s tackled Streety still manages to carry for a further 7 or 8 yards.

The Captain wasn’t too unhappy at the end of the game, he had been of the opinion, that because of shortage of players, he could well have been forced to inform Vale of Lune that they would be unable to fulfil the fixture; however after plenty of 11th hour arm-twisting he had a full quota with a bench of four substitutes.

The opposition had travelled from Lancaster to Priory Park twice in successive weeks, it is a reflection of the personnel that this side had showed many alterations from the previous encounter, with the game being played in a much better spirit.

Next week it’s a return to league fixtures when Stockport Rugby Club will be the visitors.  As they were beaten comfortably in October, at their Bramhall ground, it is hoped to return to winning ways.  Captain Bostock is hoping he won’t need to spend as much time on the phone recruiting players, as he is optimistic his injured stars will, by then, have recovered and the Mighty Fourths will be at full strength.

#maccrugby

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