Blackburn 40 – Macclesfield 22

By David Wilkinson

Macclesfield returned for the second consecutive week to Blackburn, this week their pitch was a reasonable shade of green rather than the snow-white, of the previous week, and looking very playable. Macclesfield would be without a number of players through unavailability, given this rearranged game, bringing in Jakubowski for his debut, Harrison and Smith- Coates, who had just become a Dad, the previous day.

Blackburn pressured Macclesfield from the start, and from a scrum near the halfway they loaded the left side of the field, the outside half cut-out two players to create space on the outside and Macclesfield ran out of numbers to go down to a cleverly worked try.

From the restart Blackburn again got numbers on the left and forced themselves down to Macclesfield’s red zone, although Davies cleared deep, the ball was run back, and after several phases Blackburn’s try scoring machine, number 8, Scott Richardson crashed over from close quarters. It looked ominous, Macclesfield had barely had their hands on the ball and they were 14 points down after 10 minutes.

From the restart Macclesfield showed what they could do if they got the ball in their hands, they attacked with purpose through the backs with Harry Oliver making good yards followed by Seb Pemberton. Blackburn were a team rattled and gave away a penalty that put Macc a mere 7 metres out. Several phases by the forwards took play in front of the posts, the ball was spun blind and Harry Oliver squeezed in at the corner, which he converted from the touchline.

Harry Oliver draws the last defender for Dan Martin’s try

Macclesfield now looked fired-up, securing the ball well from the restart, and as the defence pressed-up Will Davies chipped over, re gathering the ball, and Macclesfield were back in the Blackburn half, but overzealous play at the ruck relieved the pressure for Blackburn; however the referee reversed his decision after an off-the-ball incident. Macclesfield were now back again 7 metres out. The lineout was secured and from the driving maul Eliot Alston broke off and crashed over the line. Although his entire torso was over the line, and the ball was clearly grounded under him, referee Ben Moore, for reasons unbeknown deemed it to be short of the line. However from the scrum restart, Dan Martin darted blind and fed Lloyd Smith-Coates to score wide out; it was 14 -12 after 22 minutes.

Eliot Alston going over for what was thought to be Macclesfield’s second try.

From the restart Blackburn regained possession and were confident to keep the ball tight, going through the phases as they crept ever closer to the visitor’s line, Macclesfield would infringe several times but Blackburn tapped quickly each time, the last one giving an easy dart to the line by one of their backs on the burst.

It was more of the same for Blackburn as they went through twenty phases keeping possession, but Macclesfield’s defence was resolute, eventually forcing a knock-on. With the ball in their hands the visitors employed a more open game the ball being shifted out to wing Myles Hall, who in typical fashion jinked his way back in-field, the last would-be tackler ruffled his hair, which Ben Moore deemed rough enough to warrant a sit on the side-lines for 10 minutes.

Macclesfield continued to keep the ball open with surging runs, Billy Robinson broke a tackle but was momentarily isolated and even though the defender was cleared out as he got hands-on-the-ball Ben Moore deemed it a penalty. It got worse, from the ensuing attack Smith-Coates tackled well in the middle of the park forcing a wild pass being thrown out towards the right wing who got a foot to it, the ball went touch-in-goal, but the slight jostle between Sam Stelmaszek and the Blackburn 14 was worthy of a penalty try, according to referee Ben Moore; the supporters screamed in disbelief. Sam Moss politely questioning the referee under the posts, getting the response: “It was a penalty try mate, no discussion”! In the four games that I have watched this young referee, this is one of the areas that he lets himself down on, by making big decisions from distance without looking at the players’ reactions – there was no reaction from the Blackburn 14, it was just an attack that came to nothing. The game had seemed reasonably even but Blackburn led 28 – 12 at half-time.

The second half saw Blackburn increase their tempo but Macclesfield defended well and attacked through the backs deep into the Lancastrians’s territory. The ball squirted out from a ruck and Macclesfield were first to dive on the loose ball, but the referee put his mouth to whistle again exclaiming: “You’ve got to stay on your feet in the ruck”; there was more vocal disapproval from the visiting support. Macclesfield continued to press until a swinging arm around Dan Percival’s neck saw the referee go for his red card – it looked a tough call for red!

Macclesfield went through a number of phases before winning a penalty in the middle of the field just outside the home team’s 22. A scrum was called and Josh Redfern broke from the base before feeding Dan Martin with Seb Pemberton collecting the ball high and going over for the score.

Josh Redfern makes a break from the scrum to set up Macclesfield’s third try

From the restart Myles Hall made good yards before a penalty took Macclesfield back into the Blackburn half; but the lineout was botched, which put the home-side back on the attack. Blackburn played keep-ball, until they flooded the right side of the field, which took some doing being a man down; their full back got the better of Seb Pemberton’s attempted cover tackle before evading several others and sprinting to the line to score. Seb Pemberton had taken a nasty knock in the tackle and was required to leave the field, being replaced by Matt Harrison who immediately made an impact, winning a penalty. But Macclesfield gave away a free-kick at the scrum and Blackburn were quickly back on the attack. From an attack deep in Macclesfield’s half the Blackburn 10 dinked the ball over the defensive line for the on-rushing 15 to catch and score what was a well executed try.

Seb Pemberton out-jumps the defence and scores

Cross was on for Robinson and from a rock steady scrum Macc attacked, Oliver beat his man and drew the last defender before passing back inside to the live-wire Dan Martin, in support, to go over for Macclesfield’s bonus-point try. Alex Jakubowski came on for the last ten minutes, who looked lively with the ball in hand. Macclesfield repulsed Blackburn’s last attack before laying siege in Blackburn’s red-zone; where Eliot Alston was to be denied for the second time by Ben Moore, as he dived to score a try at the bottom of the post, Moore blew his whistle to put an end to it.

It had been a highly competitive game of rugby with some officiating decisions that undoubtedly affected the game but probably not the outcome. Blackburn are well worthy of their third place position in the league, with a game plan that looks well rehearsed. Head Coach Andy Appleyard felt that the team were always a threat in attack, but probably suffered from too many changes, which affected their consistency and certainly affected the lineout, and ultimately the unfolding strategy of the game. Next week the Club welcomes Lymm to Priory Park, for what is seen as a bit of a revenge match. Come along to Priory Park, a fabulous pre-match lunch is available, just book online; or just come and be the 16th man and holler all you like.

Macclesfield 2nd XV 41 – Blackburn 2nd XV 22

League Cup Semi Final & League Match

By Phil Mason

The sun finally emerged over Priory Park as the teams took to the field in what would turn out to be a 9 try, high-paced game.  Blackburn took the kick-off as Macclesfield played the first half with the fairly strong wind to their backs. From the outset Macclesfield took the game to Blackburn, using the ball from the back of a maul saw Ross Turner sprint over for the first try of the game. Isaac Reaney just about converted as the ball bounced off the cross bar in the right direction.

Following the restart, Macclesfield knocked-on and the first scrum was called.  It became clear Blackburn had a much stronger pack and pushed the Macclesfield scrum back at least 5m towards the 22, quick ball and Blackburn capitalised with a try right under the posts after 15 minutes played, however the relatively easy conversion was missed.

A dominant restart for Macclesfield, the home side managing to keep the ball alive, moving away from Blackburn’s strong forwards. Fast passing through the hands kept the pressure on, and Tom Leicester took the ball over the line, with Reaney successfully converting, leaving the scores 14 – 5 after just 15 minutes.

Blackburn’s restart was cleanly taken by Macclesfield, and passed wide to put immediate pressure on Blackburn’s backs, taking the game right to their 22.  A knock-on gave Macclesfield the scrum, and a penalty followed, successfully kicked by Reaney keeping the scoreboard rolling. Macclesfield kept the tempo up, kicking the restart straight back into Blackburn’s 22.  A penalty taken quickly saw Ben Hadfield smashing through a hole in Blackburn’s defence for a third try and 22 – 5 with 10 to go to oranges.

Blackburn were determined to get something before half time. Both sides were playing at full tempo, with Blackburn trying to rely on their forwards, and Macclesfield trying to get the ball wide to their backs.  Three Penalties against Macclesfield back-to-back in the Macclesfield half gave Blackburn major territory, and despite a yellow card for Blackburn they were rewarded with a try just as the clock ticked to zero.  Conversion missed left it 22 – 10 at the break.

With Macclesfield playing into the wind for the second half, a fast pace was resumed.  A great escape kick saw a lineout in Blackburn’s half and despite Blackburn winning the lineout, a loose pass from the resulting maul gifted a fantastic intercept try, scored under the posts by former colt Zac Bowden on his debut appearance, the convertion giving a lead of 29 – 10.

Macclesfield continued to exert pressure.  A second Yellow for Blackburn and down to 14 men, Macclesfield capitalised and David Kirk scored try number 5 for the home side. Despite the 36-15 score line, and one player down, Blackburn put the pressure on, forcing the play to their strong forwards, cutting our backs out of the game; they drove over the line, after three crash ball phases, but great defence managed to hold the ball up denying the try.

A long kick-out from the goal line was caught perfectly by Blackburn, and then ran straight through Macclesfield from 60m out regained the denied try in great style for the opposition.  Converted leaving the score 36-22 with 5 minutes to go.

The final 5 minutes were tense as Blackburn had their tails up, piling the pressure on to the home side.  However, Macclesfield regained a failed kick to touch, some fast hands and feet and a superb fast offload to Rick Hopkin saw a break from 40m to score the sixth try for the home side.

It was a great game, with no less than three Macclesfield debutants: Louis Grey, Callum Wright and try scoring Zac Bowden, all complimenting a squad with ages from 18 to 60!

The 2nd XV now go on to play Caldy 2nd XV in the League Cup final on 7th May 2022 (Venue TBC).

A happy Macclesfield 2nd XV after beating Blackburn

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