Macclesfield 53 – Wirral 21
By David Wilkinson
The injury and availability problems continued after the Rossendale win, with both tight-head props being unavailable and Harry Harding succumbing to a knee injury. Ben Holden, previously of the second team, was free from university to make his debut in the front row, and Josh DeGroot also returned from injury into the second row, although he wouldn’t last the game out.
Wirral started with a sustained period of possession but failed to make any ground against Macclesfield organised defence. Seb Pemberton won a turnover and immediately the home side showed-off the quality of their fast penetrative play, but Wirral wriggled off the hook when Macc entered a ruck from the side in the red-zone, and pressure was briefly relieved. Macclesfield attacked again from a dominant scrum on halfway, with Harry Oliver going over, but the referee deemed that the ball had not been grounded and Wirral escaped again.
Macclesfield turned over Wirral again; the penalty creating a lineout deep in the visitor’s half. Wirral were soaking up a lot of pressure and from another dominant scrum, a dummy run by Harry Blackwell created a gap for Phil Laing to charge through for the opening score after 21 minutes. Macc wasted no time from the restart to get back into an attacking position, James Oliver climbed the highest to win a towering kick by Sam Stelmaszek, a 50-22 followed and the pressure was back on. An illegal hack from a ruck led to a 5 metre lineout, and the Macclesfield pack were clinical, with Ben Holden getting the score from the driving-maul, a try for the young Prop on debut was a bit special, and the lads let him know it; 12-0 after 28 minutes.
The weather had gone from Spring back to Winter as Wirral hit back and put together several phases until Macclesfield turned them over at a collapsed maul, but from the mêlée on the ground that followed, Josh Redfern was Yellow Carded. With the scrum down to 7 Wirral opted for a series of set piece scrums, from the third, number 8 James Reeve, went for the line, with a Macclesfield defender losing his feet on the damp surface, it provided no-contest on the line and the try was scored; 12-7.
Macclesfield’s injury woes continued as Josh DeGroot left the field with a dislocated finger, replaced by Elliot Alston. The remainder of the half was somewhat of a curate’s-egg; there were lots of mistakes that the Macc lads were fortunate to get away with. They didn’t panic, but regained their composure and with Redfern back on the pitch the dominance at the scrum returned, and from 10 metres out there was no mistake, the ball being shipped quickly to Myles Hall who used his determination to get over; 17-7 at halftime with the elements to use in the second half.
As soon as Macclesfield got their hands on the ball, their clinical fast style continued, with Captain James Oliver receiving the ball out wide in his own half; spotting a gap he glided between the first three defenders before putting the after-burners on to scorch past the last two, to score under the posts, with brother Harry doing the honours to make it 24-7 and the bonus point.
Yet another injury for Macclesfield, as Tom Brand was forced to leave the field; with no other Forwards on the bench, Will Davies came on at 15, with Phil Laing moving to back-row. A period of stop-start, scrappy play took place around the middle of the now sun-drenched pitch until
Macclesfield pulled the trigger again. A serious of attacks made good ground and with the defence scuttling back Stelmaszek spotted a gap to the line, he celebrated the invitation, touching down at full pace, with an easy conversion for Harry Oliver, 31-7.
It got quickly worse for Wirral, Macclesfield attacked from the deep re-start, Harry Oliver breaking a tackle on the 22, and at the halfway line chipping ahead, the weight was perfect, and both Sam Stelmaszek and Harry Blackwell won the foot-race, with Sam, hacking it over the line and getting his brace. Barely a minute into the restart Macclesfield were back on the attack, with Danny Martin now pulling the strings from the 9 spot, Harry Blackwell crashed through the tackle before slipping the ball to Will Davies, who’s strong run could not be halted by three defenders; 43-7.
Wirral were doing their best to make a game of it but the home side’s defence was just too strong, a turnover from a scavenging Phil Laing gave Will Davies a kick to the corner, with the lineout won off the top, 2 phases, and the ball was shipped to the other wing where Myles Hall went over for his brace.
Macclesfield’s endeavour then just got a tad sloppy, giving Wirral an attacking scrum on the 22. Wirral’s number 6 picked up from the base dummying right before cutting inside Macclesfield’s defence to score a well executed try. Macclesfield would follow with an equally well executed try; after several attacking phases on the left James Hampson spotted his Captain standing wide-out to the right, the kick was perfect, as was James Oliver’s challenge, timing his jump to beat his opponent to the ball and score Macclesfield’s 9th try!
With the clock in the red, Wirral would take the last points; a penalty gave them possession in the Macc 22, this time Wirral kept the ball away from Macclesfield’s well-drilled defensive line, instead 4 or 5 rolling mauls got them to the line and their third try. The game finished 53-21; whilst Wirral never gave up, they struggled to cope with the intensity of Macclesfield game, both in attack and defence. Other than a couple of one-off breaks Wirral found it difficult to penetrate Macclesfield’s organised defence, and contrastingly Macclesfield were able to disorganise their defence with the speed and accuracy of their recycling, and variety of attacking lines. It had been a good team performance, laced with excellent individual showings, namely, once again, a fearless James Oliver also showing off his finishing skills; Seb Pemberton gets better each week in the second row, with his athletic drives and lineout work, but MOTM went to Harry Blackwell for his overall 80 minute performance.
Head Coach Andy Appleyard, was rightly pleased with the performance: “We finished most of the opportunities to score that we created, which was great to see. When things weren’t going quite right, we didn’t panic, the boys got together and calmly sorted things out. I was really pleased to see how well Ben Hadfield did; he could have a great future ahead of him. We go again next week against Alnwick, which will be a different challenge in the pack, we will definitely be without Josh DeGroot who suffered a compound fracture of his index finger, but hopefully we should have a few others back in the mix”.
The injury problems cascaded through the other teams on Saturday, which ultimately meant that the league ruling prevented any other games from taking place.
Girl’s and Ladies’ Rugby
Sunday saw plenty of rugby played; Girls’ Rugby brought 160 players from around the North West to have fun with the oval ball at Priory Park, while the Ladies of the Women’s team were away at Glossop in what may be the final game of the season. Liz Jarrett said: “Macclesfield Ladies scored a convincing win, it was an awesome team effort that reflects the hard work we’ve put in this season; tries were scored by Mel Bramley, Mary Thorp and Katie McCarthy, with a conversion from Kirsty Wallis.
Phil Mason reports on the Girl’s Pitch-up-and-play event
Let me start by saying a BIG thank you to our referees: Tom Brierley, Joe Moorcroft and Paul Underhill; who we hope enjoyed it as much as the girl’s playing it, you helped to make the day that much more special!
To the Macclesfield girl’s management team: Vicky Brierley, Lisa Spence and Amanda Stark, thank you for your support and organisation skills to make the day run smoothly so that all could enjoy the sport; as well as our parents for the support, of both players and coaches, we could not do what we do without you all!
To all of the girls in attendance, wow! What numbers we had; credit to your Club and coaches, from: Aldwinians, Manchester Rubies, Preston Grasshoppers, Burnley, Ormskirk, Caldy, Longton, Littleborough, Southport, Chester, Winnington Park, Didsbury, Broughton Park and Stockport.
The Macclesfield Girl’s team had: 1, U13 and 8, U15s, not our usual numbers but still what an impact you all made!
Lily (U13) what a star you were, turning up and making new friends within the teams you were put with, you really showed the true spirit of rugby! Not to mention your sniping runs and strong tackles, and what a break you made! And strong performances throughout all your games, you really made an impact; congratulations, you’re a star in the making!
U15s; not an easy first game with having to play opposite each other! Always interesting when you come up against your own team and having to tackle them and not pass to them. But, you all did it and that’s what these events are about, game experience and enjoying rugby.
There were strong tackles from all individuals which was just awesome to see. Special mentions: to Mia, Sophie and Gwen who’s defence was filled with grit and determination; Elsie, for stepping up and wanting to test herself in a new position, on the day; Lottie for being tested and developing her skills as a Full Back, high balls and kicks were on the cards, but wow, handled like a pro; Teagan, throughout all the games you showed great Teamwork, playing for others and being put where you were needed, no grumbles, thank you; you develop so much, each and every time; Connie, you thoroughly deserved your try, a fantastic break but also then being tested in your kicking skills.
What a talented set of girl’s Macclesfield has, keep following the principles of play and making your Club proud!
Phil Mason, U16 Team Manager
Junior Colts v Sandbach in the League Cup
This was to be a very competitive Quarter Final, Sandbach took the lead in the first half before Macclesfield squared it 19-19 at half-time. The second half saw Sandbach pull ahead again; the Macclesfield boys chased hard, and pulled the game back to just 5 points short, 26-31. The boys threw everything at it to get the final score, and the win, but it wasn’t to be, and Sandbach went through.
The 1992 Cheshire Cup reunion
It had been 30 years since Macclesfield faced Sale in the final of the Cheshire Cup at Wilmslow. Macclesfield were, quite rightly, the underdogs, Sale had never been beaten in the Cheshire Cup, and according to comments made to Captain, Matt Harding, before the game, they did not rate Macclesfield. If you look back at my scribbling on the website, June 2020, you can read the full account. In précis, Macc weathered an early storm, but kicks from Rob Oliver and tries from Rick Usher and Dave Worthington stole the day 21-4.
Back then it was the biggest game in the Club’s history, and was well worth the reunion on Saturday, reliving the bond created on that great rugby day. The squad of 1992 had a great lunch and 9 tries to applaud afterwards.
The last home game of the season on Saturday is a 3.00pm kick-off against Alnwick, the pre-game Players’ Lunch is sold out!