The lows and highs in the Cup for Macc

Macclesfield 31 – Anselmians 54

By David Wilkinson

The Quarter Final of the Cheshire Cup pitched Macclesfield at home to Anselmians, who had progressed after beating their long-time neighbours and rivals, Birkenhead Park. The previous old boys of Anselm’s College had only been beaten once all season and had averaged 46 points per game. They had recruited well attracting a number of players from National One, and riding high at the top of North West Two. They were a side definitely with momentum on their side and full of confidence. The pitch was bone-dry and I had said in my pre-match notes that it would suit Anselmians.

Will Davies scores Macclesfield’s first in the Cup

The game kicked-off in bright sunshine, with a stiff breeze blowing up and down the pitch. Surprisingly, for a lot of people watching, the game was to be refereed by Jack Moorhouse, a previous try-scoring legend at Macclesfield and Sale FC. Jack would look as comfortable with the whistle as he was running in tries on the right wing. The early exchanges were fairly even, fast-paced, but with both sides making mistakes; Macclesfield had a good chance with an attacking scrum, but the visitors wheeled it and won the ball as Macclesfield failed to keep control at the back. Macclesfield’s lineout did not look as crisp as it did the previous week and the scrum looked to be well matched. It was from a scrum, in Macclesfield’s half, that the first score came. Harry Oliver got outside his man and drew the cover before releasing Will Davies to sprint 40 metres up the right wing to score in the corner.

Harry Blackwell powers through a blanket of defenders to score

After the restart, Billy Robinson had his leg twisted in a tackle, suffering a knee injury, given the number of matches left, this may be the last time he’s seen this season. Macclesfield built their phases and were looking a lot stronger than the team from Birkenhead, winning all of the mini battles, until they were awarded a shot at goal, the ball hit the post and the Saints had a very short reprieve until Macclesfield ran it back at them. The ball was worked deep right, and after a few phases Harry Blackwell took the ball flat-out, running against the grain and barging past several defenders to score.

Anselmians started to play like a table-topping team, their pack put several good phases together before releasing their left wing who made good ground into the 22, after recycling well and deft handling by the forwards put their Scrum Half, Liam Sadler, over. Macclesfield were back on the attack, Will Davies ran the ball back from deep into the visitors half and the ball was spun to the left were Macclesfield were loaded with extra players, but the pass was over-run and the loose ball was picked up by Saints’ right wing who had a clear 65 metre run to the line. In the blink of an eye Macclesfield had gone from 12 – 0 ahead to 12 – 14 down, it was cup rugby.

Macclesfield were immediately back on attack several phases of play progressed them into the 22 where Matt Thorp picked and took the ball just short of the line, from the ruck Elliot Alston picked up a difficult pass and in one motion shifted it Dan Percival, who had no problem using his strength to score in the corner; Harry Oliver converted from the touchline.

Straight from the restart Macclesfield had an attacking scrum on halfway, the ball was spun left but a knock-on put the ball into the grateful hands of Anselmians’14, he deftly chipped and chased his own kick to beat the cover tacklers and go under the sticks again; it had been his second gift-on-a-plate; 19 -21 at half-time, it was exciting cup rugby but Macclesfield had made too many unforced errors.

The Anselmians Fly Half would use the wind well in the second half pushing Macclesfield back into their 22. After a kick-and-chase that was ultimately knocked-on, Macclesfield had a 5 metre scrum; the pressure came on and Macclesfield were driven off their own ball, with the Saints no. 5 going over; the tides had turned in the pack. From his own 22 Anselmians Fly Half again used the wind to take play into Macclesfield’s 22. From there the visitors applied the pressure, with good ball finding their 10, who dummied, beating the would-be tackler, and again, going under the sticks; at 19 – 35 Anselmians were now looking clear favourites.

Harry Oliver’s outside break results in a fine try

Macclesfield got briefly into the visitor’s half, but again their playmaker used the wind to take play to the home team’s line. Macclesfield survived several onslaughts, until a rolling maul took the Saints over the line yet again, at 19 – 40, it would be a long way back for the Macc lads, but they gave it a go from the restart, with some fast recycling of the ball, Harry Oliver received the ball with still plenty to do, but holding the ball in one hand he went for full-on gas, and it worked rounding the 15 and getting over for 5 points.

Once again Macclesfield fought back, mounting a good attack from a goal-line dropout, they worked an overlap on the left, but the final pass was telegraphed, the Saints’ Right Winger clawed out with one hand, which had he not caught, would have been a penalty try and yellow card, but he secured it on the second time of asking and raced away unchallenged to go under the sticks for his hat-trick.

Macclesfield went back on the attack, going through their phases and once they got close and Anselmians were on their back foot, Captain James Oliver pulled the trigger, beating a player and using his pace to get to the line, with his brother kicking the points.

Once again it was a huge boot-to-ball and Anselmians were camped in Macclesfield’s 22; what looked like a certain try wasn’t, but the pressure remained. From a 5 metre scrum Anselmians got the shove on again and the ball squirted from the base with the Saints Scrum Half getting to it first for his brace. Before the Saints went marching in, they made sure Macclesfield would get no more chances, the game finishing with a 23 point margin – to my reckoning the visitors had been gifted 28 points, which was the story of the contest. The soon to be promoted side from Birkenhead march on to face Lymm in the semi-finals, I doubt Lymm will be quite as generous.

To say that Head Coach, Andy Appleyard was disappointed is an understatement: “I’m disappointed in the result, we wanted to challenge for the Cup; I’m disappointed for the players and I’m disappointed for the supporters. Once again it was the uncontrollable matters that affected us; losing a player on Friday night, another on Saturday morning and then Billy Robinson early in the first half. It sounds like an excuse, and it isn’t meant to, but these things have a compound effect on the team, the injuries have stacked up throughout the season so much that we literally ran out of players (the team fielded was one short on the bench). We unfortunately gifted a few scores early on, which seemed give the boys a ‘banana-skin’ fear and they forced 50/50 situations. They were a very good side that would do well in our league, their nine and ten played very well. The ten used the wind better than we did and their fourteen was very good. After losing Billy the pressure started to tell in the pack, up against a strong Anselmians set of forwards. We go again next week against Rossendale and I’m expecting that we have several players returning, to get in the mix for selection”.

It had been a very competitive game of Cup Rugby, the visitors bringing plenty of support with them, who had good reason to be boisterous, and why not. Sadly the day was marred by two or three Anselmians supporters in the Stand, whose language was totally unacceptable; which did not go unnoticed by their Chairman who apologised personally.

Macclesfield Junior Colts v Lymm – Cheshire Cup Quarter Final

Lymm were not able to field a recognised front row, so the game was played with uncontested scrums, which the Macclesfield’s forwards would have been disappointed about. Watching the first half unfold one wondered if this would favour Lymm as their Marcus Smith look-a-like fly half, directed proceedings with some subtle passing, sparking the Lymm backs to go over for two tries. There could have been another couple at least but Macclesfield’s last-gasp tackles saved the day and kept the contest in check.

Lymm escape in the first half

The young men of Macclesfield were more than competitive, but they weren’t really making best use of the conditions. The wind was a big advantage, but they were determined to run it out, and to be fair they did, on two or three occasions, in the first half, break the line. Twice their big Outside Centre (Sale Academy 2nd Row Forward George Murphy) crashed through the defence, but his kicks ahead, for other chasers, did not take account of the wind and firm surface, bounding over the dead-ball line. The one time in the first half that the wind was used, was from a goal-line dropout, the ball travelled some 90 metres before bouncing into touch, one would assume that the 50-22 law would apply but Lymm got to throw-in; as it happened, it made little difference as Macclesfield ended up with the ball; and a number of phases later Macclesfield scored.

Noah Reaney dots down with his solo try

Half-time and Macclesfield were only a score down; chatter around the ground was: “we’ll do it now”; and the way that they started the second-half suggested that they would. Lymm tried to do what Macc were doing in the first half, but they didn’t have a George Murphy. Their clever Fly Half had moved to Scrum Half, even though he was still trying to be the Playmaker, which didn’t work. Macclesfield would score another four tries taking their opportunities well. The best of the bunch was scored by another lad in the Sale Academy, Noah Reaney; Reaney picked up a loose ball 30 metres out before beating the same player twice to score. Reaney would get another, as well as Finlay Usher, Pierce Thomson and Tom Wilmot; final score was 29 – 12, a well deserved win for Macclesfield.

U12s travel south for the Lichfield Festival

On a beautiful spring morning, Macclesfield U12s sent 2 teams to Lichfield Festival. Macclesfield 1 had 3 group games and won 3-1 v Wolverhampton, 5-1 v Stoke, 6-0 v Nuneaton and beat Newcastle 5-0 in the semi-final of the Cup.

Macclesfield 2 had 2 group games and beat Rugeley 6 – 0 and a spirited Stoke 4 – 0 and then won 4 – 0 against Nuneaton in the semi-final of the Cup.

So it was Macclesfield 1 v Macclesfield 2 in the final. The players were asked if they were happy to share the trophy or if they wanted to play, and they resoundingly decided to play!

Macc U12s winners at Lichfield Tournament

It was always going to be tough game, as they were very evenly matched teams, and the final didn’t disappoint. Neither team gave an inch, until one moment of magic, and fast feet, gave Macc 1 the lead with 5 minutes to go. Macc 2 had all the pressure in the final minutes and crossed the try line in the penultimate play of the game, only to be held up. The score line stayed as it was with Macclesfield 1 the victors, but Macclesfield Rugby definitely the winners with first and second in the tournament!

In 8 years time these boys could be playing in quite a different Macclesfield 1s team!


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