IT’S THE SEMI-FINALS FOR MACC 2s

By Rick Jones

Macclesfield 1st XV took a rest on Saturday while most of their North Premier opponents were on a catch-up weekend. The only Club result was for the second team, who are going through resurgence in form. The 2nd XV travelled to Cross Green to take on regular foes Preston Grasshoppers in the Quarter Final of the NOWIRUL Cup. The 2nd team squad have become more settled, in tandem with the 1st team. The boys will have been in a confident mood on the coach as their previous meetings had resulted in a draw at Priory Park and a win away from home Preston.

Playing away from home on an artificial pitch, Macclesfield 2’s had it all to do if they were going to win this one. The Club had put on a coach for the team to travel together, and the players were focused and ready for battle.

A strong side had been selected; Captain Sam Jones was back in the team, after 1st team duty, along with Pete Milne, James Cross and Elliott Alston. They would be playing into a very strong wind and a big Preston side who wanted to run hard and test Macclesfield’s defence.

The defence was up to the test, with big tackles going in all over the pitch, particularly from the back row of Evan Wynne, Sam Jones and Ben Hadfield, who were covering every inch of Preston’s plastic pitch. The Macclesfield scrum was strong, causing Preston trouble on their own ball, meaning that they could never settle into their phase play. Dale Crompton deserves a huge shout-out for stepping into the loose head prop role, and making it look easy; hopefully he will keep playing there and become a very good player.

But it would be Preston that would draw first blood, winning a kickable penalty that was duly converted to take the early lead 3 – 0.

With 5 minutes to go until halftime, Preston got a chance 7m out, a few drives by their large forwards, set up their Skipper Harry Holden who finally broke Macc’s defensive efforts to score; the conversion was kicked and it was 10 – 0 to Preston at half time.

Coach Russ Tomlinson’s team-talk was positive: “stay calm, keep the ball and the chances will come”.

The second half didn’t start well for Macc, giving away a penalty, for hands-in-at-the-ruck. The Preston scrum half, Jake Squirrel, slotted the kick to make it 13-0.

There was still plenty of time on the clock for Macclesfield, and Scrum Half, Dan Martin’s sniping runs would get the backs on the front foot;  Isaac Reaney, at 10, distributing well to Pete Milne and Tom Leicester, who were linking well in the centre channels. The magic feet of Alex Jakubowski, at fullback, were mesmerising when he came into the line; and Lloyd Smith-Coates on the wing was proving to be a handful every time he got the ball, making good ground and sucking in 3 Preston defenders every time, in an attempt to stop him!

Macclesfield were now starting to gain territory up the pitch, with some big carries from James Cross who was starting to influence the game, especially with his soft hands in the pass.

After one of Carl Droy’s many carries, Captain Jones picked up and smashed his way over the try line with help from Elliot Alston & Jonny Thompson, Isaac Reaney added the extras 13-7. Carl Droy, at 18 years of age, is going to be a great player; following in his father’s footsteps he’s a grafter who punches well above his weight.

The game ebbed and flowed, both ways, but mainly from Macc giving the ball away cheaply. The line out had struggled to function all game, mainly due to the wind, but also due to some skulduggery by Preston, which was not being picked up by the referee.

A raking kick, from Isaac Reaney, put Macclesfield deep into Preston’s 22. It presented an opportunity not to be spurned, and it wasn’t. Jonny Thompson rose the highest, stealing the Preston throw. The chance was on, Cross carried hard again, bumping a couple of tacklers and setting the ball up for the impressive Carl Droy to pick the ball and barge his way over the line. Reaney was left with a difficult conversion to take the lead, but he held his nerve and the ball sailed between the posts; with just two minutes left to play Macclesfield had taken the lead for the first time 13 – 14.

Captain, Sam Jones, took the kick off and carried hard; Martin picked and made a fantastic break, getting the team to the half way line; the referee signalled time, the ball was booted from the pitch and the celebrations began.

It had been a brilliant win; the whole team had worked hard, and never gave up – team-spirit was off the charts! “The bus journey home should be a good one”, said a very pleased Russ Tomlinson, and it was.

Macclesfield now play Blackburn 2’s at home in the semi-final.”

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