Kirkby Lonsdale 7 – Macclesfield 59

Match report: Bob Cooke

Macclesfield returned to winning ways with a decisive 9 try victory at Kirkby Lonsdale. On the edge of Cumbria and Yorkshire’s Peaks nestles the most picturesque ground on the fixture list.  Regrettably this isolated town means that the rugby club has fared badly during and since lockdown, with the loss of a significant number of players. This has resulted in a challenging season with some heavy defeats and a lowly league position. Macclesfield, with their own injury concerns, and occasional inconsistency, were to take nothing for granted, as they ran out on a bright but breezy afternoon.

In the absence of the injured Sam Moss, James Oliver skippered a team keen to show what they could do, following the loss of the previous week. The tone was set on three minutes as the ball was passed left from a ruck to Harry Oliver, whose pass to Sam Stelmaszek was chipped forward off his foot, to cross the line as he touched down unopposed; Harry Oliver converted. Four minutes later when Kirkby Lonsdale’s 2nd row, Ciaran Sutcliffe, was caught offside, Harry Oliver kicked to the corner.  Macclesfield won the lineout and from a textbook play Hooker Matt Thorp touched down from the back of the rolling maul; with Harry Oliver getting the extras, Macclesfield were 14 points up within 10 minutes.

Macclesfield went through multiple phases attacking Kirkby Lonsdale with determined drives, but often these moves, as has been the recent case, were frustrated by poor final passes. Kirkby Lonsdale knew they were in for a torrid afternoon, but competed with spirit and aggression whenever they got the opportunity.

After a Macclesfield scrum, on 13 minutes, Sam Stelmascek made a fine break down the centre, but his pass to Harry Oliver was knocked forward deliberately by the Kirby Lonsdale winger, Charlie Oates, who cut a dejected figure as he was sent marching to the dug-out. It was to be expected that Macclesfield would capitalise upon their extra man, during the 10 minute sin binning, and increase the pressure upon Kirkby Lonsdale; but if anything, it was Kirkby Lonsdale who raised the tempo of their game and pressured the Macclesfield line on several occasions before their man returned. This included an unfortunate attempt, by the Kirkby Lonsdale flanker, to run through Billy Robinson, defending on the Macclesfield line – with predictable results!  Macclesfield had simply made too many unforced errors, to add to their score while they had the extra man advantage.

The next score came shortly after Kirkby Lonsdale were back to 15 men. From a Macclesfield lineout Tom Brand took the ball cleanly and it was moved quickly along the three-quarter line, deep into the Kirkby Lonsdale half, but the final pass went forward. Kirkby Lonsdale won the scrum, but at a ruck, shortly after, they were penalised for holding-on. Harry Oliver took the quick-tap, Macc drove strongly and the ball was passed neatly to Myles Hall, who ran an excellent line to score under the posts affording a simple kick for Harry Oliver.

From the restart, the ball was set up by the Macc pack, and with a fine short pass from Billy Robinson to Dan Percival he broke through the middle making good yards, there were then four rucks, two of them being driven by the excellent Harry Harding, before the ball was moved along the three-quarter line for Harry Blackwell to score a simple bonus point try in the corner; Harry Oliver was unable to convert the kick.

On 35 minutes, after pressure from Kirkby Lonsdale, Sam Stelmaszek’s clearance did not reach touch; Kirkby Lonsdale attacked again and although the ball was won briefly back by Macclesfield’s No 8 James Oliver, from an ensuing ruck, Kirkby Lonsdale moved the ball quickly out to the left wing, finding the tightest of overlaps next to the touch-line, but the ball was successfully shipped to winger Harry Huddleston, who sprinted up the touchline, round the defence and scored under the posts for what was to prove their only try, which Ben Charlesworth converted.

Myles Hall took a clearance in the visitors half beating the first defender for pace, then using his determination to shrug off the next two would-be tacklers to put Macclesfield back on the attack. Although the hosts relieved the pressure from a penalty, it would be short-lived. James Oliver rose the highest at the lineout, stealing the ball and putting Macc back on the attack, after just two phases, Sam Stelmaszek picked up at the ruck, making a fine diagonal run to score under the posts; Harry Oliver converted to make the half time score 7 – 33 to Macclesfield.

A strong scrummage leads up to Phil Laing’s first try

The second half saw Macclesfield start again where they had finished the first, putting pressure on the Kirkby Lonsdale line. Although Macclesfield drove repeatedly to get the score, Kirkby Lonsdale defended well and eventually turned the ball over, but their attempted clearance against the wind was taken by Myles Hall and Macc were again back into the Kirkby Lonsdale 22. Macclesfield were relentless, with several charging drives from Billy Robinson, winning a scrum 20m out on the right wing. It was a training ground move, off a solid scrum the ball was switched back inside to Phil Laing taking crash-ball, and racing diagonally in from the right wing to score under the posts, with Harry Oliver converting.

Macclesfield presses for a sixth try in the Cumbrian countryside

On 51 minutes Kirkby Lonsdale were caught offside; Sam Stelmaszek attempted to take the quick tap-penalty but was impeded by the Kirkby Lonsdale no. 10, Charlesworth, who was yellow carded.  This was a strong period for Macclesfield as superior fitness began to tell. From a penalty near the Kirkby Lonsdale line, Macclesfield opted for the scrum; skipper James Oliver crashed over from No 8 to score, what looked like a perfectly good try. Unfortunately, the referee, who had an otherwise excellent game, was unsighted and disallowed the try judging it to have been grounded short, and knocked forward.  After this scrum Danny Martin came on for Macclesfield, replacing Sam Stelmaszek at scrum half.  Martin immediately injected urgency, and from a scrum penalty to Macclesfield, because the Kirkby Lonsdale loose head prop “stood up”, took a quick tap-penalty and passed to James Oliver who dived over to score beneath the posts, redeeming his bad luck of a moment earlier, leaving a simple conversion for his brother.

Straight from the restart, James Hampson, the Macclesfield no. 10, kicked a monster 50:22 to give Macclesfield the lineout deep into the Kirkby Lonsdale 22. Although the lineout was won the ball was lost in midfield, Kirkby Lonsdale secured the scrum and went through multiple phases trying to break through the Macclesfield defence. Harry Oliver, in an attempted tackle, found his arms around the player’s head, as the player slipped to his knees; it was a somewhat academic yellow card for a high tackle – Harry begrudgingly leaving the field. Kirkby Lonsdale lost the lineout resulting from the penalty for the high tackle as James Cross dropped onto the loose ball. Macclesfield moved the ball to Lloyd Smith Coates on the right wing who made good ground before passing inside to Harry Blackwell who went close before the ball was knocked forward close to the Kirkby Lonsdale line. There followed an extensive period of to-and-fro between both sides with neither able to break the deadlock.  The Macclesfield scrum was clearly dominant but they were repeatedly disrupted and tackled by a spirited Kirkby Lonsdale side. The next score was from Macclesfield when from a goal line drop out the ball was driven back and Tom Brand forced his way over for the try; Danny Martin was unable to add the extras.

Phil Laing gets his brace after some excellent backs play

Although Kirkby Lonsdale continued to compete, attacking the Macclesfield line regularly, aided by some mistakes and infringements from Macclesfield, they were up against a better team, in Macclesfield, who always had enough to defend any threat.  After Kirkby Lonsdale’s 3rd yellow card Macclesfield secured the lineout from the kick into the corner; after two phases the ball was spun across the three-quarter line, and a dummy-scissors move in the middle of the park opened up the gap for Phil Laing to score his second try of the afternoon, Harry Oliver converted immediately before the final whistle.

Head Coach, Andy Appleyard’s post-match comment

“Its games like these, where you can lose structure, forcing the game, as Kirkby defended with a lot of determination, but on the whole I thought that we stuck to our plans very well. It was good to see the boys go through the phases, we probably left a few scores out there, but we also executed some set moves well to score. I was very pleased with the overall performance and it was great to see Harry Blackwell back out there. Matt Thorp did well, stepping into the Hooker role; it was a good game for him to get started again, as the challenge will get tougher with the games ahead.

Saturday’s Cheshire Cup Quarter-Final against Anselmians at Priory Park will give an opportunity for some other players, as we will be allowed a much bigger bench. Sam Stelmaszek is away on Poland duty, otherwise it looks like we got through Saturday unscathed; Harry Blackwell and Elliot Alston went off with cramp, but hopefully will be OK. Seb Pemberton should be back in the mix and we’ll wait to see on others in the week”.

The game will kick-off at 3.00 pm on Saturday; a pre- match 2 course lunch is available and bookable through the Club website. Anselmians sit top of North Two West, having only lost once this season, they will come to Macclesfield fired-up for a scalp, so expect a tough encounter. Please come and support the boys, a win will set up a third encounter with Lymm!

U16 Cheshire Cup Champions

U16s sensational success!

The U16 squad has had a sensational season so far, culminating on Sunday being crowned as Cheshire Champions. I spoke to Rob Davies, Coach, Dad, and ex Sale and Macclesfield player about the squad’s success:

“We beat Stockport, at Stockport, 20 points to 5 on Sunday, in what has been a bit of a nightmare of a tournament. We were forced to play the semi-final in terrible conditions, because of fixture congestion with lads representing Cheshire and Sale. This has been the first final since this same group of lads won the last one, when they were U12s; the competition was stopped for a couple of years then reintroduced at U15s but cancelled due to Covid. The lads are finishing on a high, there are lots of Kings School boys, but 11 schools are represented in the squad, which is the biggest in Cheshire. We’ve got 38 in the squad, the most players in Sale’s Academy and 7 County players; of the 15 that started on Sunday 13 are either County or Sale Academy players”.

It takes all shapes and sizes, 3 of the U16s with their trophy

Rob explained that it was much more than that, that it’s been about fulfilling this group of lads, over the many seasons that they’ve been together, with the right values, coaching them properly, finding them the right fixtures – that’s been the big win. On Sunday they were without two of their players, as Ollie Davies and Toby Wilson had been selected to play for Sale Academy against Exeter, which resulted in a 24 all draw. Even so, their Macc teammates did the business over close rivals Stockport, scoring tries through Freddie Griffiths and two by Finn Arnold; Billy Bridgewater getting a penalty and a conversion. Although Macclesfield had the slope and the wind in the first half they turned around 5 all. In the second half they emptied the bench and did the business.

The U16s when they were U11s and Land Rover Cup Champions

Rob was obviously very proud of what these boys have achieved together, the core of them since they were U6s; winning numerous trophies over the years with one of the climax moments winning the national Land Rover Cup competition and being presented with their medals at Twickenham by Jason Robinson and Lewis Moody. Rob explained that as this group graduate into Colts rugby, many of them studying at Kings may not be able to have complete involvement, but the squad should be strong enough to continue to be competitive. It is hoped that the Club might attract a senior Colts Coach to foster their development into senior rugby – watch this space!

The Ladies from the Women’s team, in black, after their win against Glossop

Then there’s Women’s Rugby, Liz Jarret reports on their recent win:

“Macclesfield’s Ladies played their first match in a few weeks on Sunday, against a well drilled side from Glossop. Both teams played with determination and great camaraderie, both on and off the pitch. After a well fought match, Macclesfield took the win. We travel to Glossop in 3 weeks time for a rematch!”

Barry Jones Funeral is Friday 18th March, 10:45 at St Michael & All Angels Church Macclesfield; followed by a Private Family Ceremony at Macclesfield Crematorium at 12:15.

The family welcome all of Barry’s friends to attend the funeral ceremony at 10.45 and celebration of Barry’s life at the place he loved – Macclesfield Rugby Club from 1:00 PM. The Club bars will be open from 12noon. Any donations may be given to: East Cheshire Hospice or King’s School Bursary Fund.

David Wilkinson


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