A SIZZLING PRE-SEASON WARM-UP

Macclesfied 10 – Hull 24

By David Wilkinson

Macclesfield were pleased to welcome back Hull to Priory Park, for a repeat of last season’s warm-up game. Hull had had a very successful season that culminated in beating arch rivals Hull Ionians 31 -29 to win promotion into National One, for the first time. Talking to their Head Coach, Garry Pierce, post match, he was highly complementary of Clive Griffiths’s influence on their team: “A Coach that wins a Grand Slam certainly knows his stuff”. This season Clive is switching his major commitment to Macclesfield, his experience will be invaluable to Andy Appleyard and the coaching team, that also includes Forwards’ Coach Ben Wade and Skills Coach, Darren Lamon, as well as a team of Consultant Coaches.

It was evident during the warm-up period that the Hull squad were man-for-man considerably bigger than the Macclesfield 16, which at some stage they would bring to their advantage. The first test would be at the first Macclesfield scrum, but the 8 were rock-solid, and Macclesfield were able to put a series of phases together, before winning a penalty. Charlie Ellis, on home debut, kicked to the 22, where after a clean lineout Macclesfield drove towards the try-line. They were looking solid upfront but when the ball went to ground Hooker, Marcus Pyle, was isolated and turned over. With a little good fortune Hull got a lineout on the 22; a shortened lineout signified a training ground move, and it was executed with precision and pace, Hull’s tall and athletic Polynesian 7, taking a crash-ball, without a hand hardly being laid upon him, and diving over for the first score.

Number 10 Charlie Ellis getting scragged

A series of frustrating reset scrums followed and whilst it looked as if Hull had wheeled a scrum it was the Macclesfield pack that was penalised, even though the ball had already left the scrum. The Hull pack was back in the Macc 22. From the lineout drive they went to ground, but Hooker Marcus Pyle was quick to latch over the ball to win a penalty, and relief.

With the temperature at 32 degrees the game was played in four quarters; in the second quarter Charlie Ellis thumped a massive clearance to within 5 metres of the Hull try line. Although Hull won the lineout, Macclesfield dispossessed them; this time there would be no mistake. Two big phases drove the big Hull forwards back and Harry Harding was over for a well won try.

No mistake for Macc’s first try as Harry Harding forces his way over the line

After the restart Macclesfield were harshly penalised for sealing off at the ruck, which gave possession again for Hull just outside the 22. It would be another set-move crash-ball, but this time executed in the outside channel, with their big flying Fijian, Tomasi Tanumi, bouncing through three would-be tacklers to go over for Hull’s second try.

From the restart the speedy Hull 7 hacked through winning the race for the ball a few metres out but knocked-on trying to gather it. At the scrum, Macc were solid, and went through the phases until they could clear their lines. Hull were back on the attack but the Macclesfield defence was sound; when Hull did get close they spilled the ball, and the response was lightening quick. Left wing Sam Broster snatched the gift and set-off from deep in his 22; he stepped inside the first defender to find green space in front of him. The converted Centre is known more for his strength and cunning than out-and-out pace, but he pinned his ears back and went for it. As ever, Danny Martin was in support, Sam drew one of the cover tacklers to set Danny on his way to the line; there was only one player to beat. The young scrum half was as cool as a cucumber, in the intense heat of the situation; in an instant he jinked right and left, to stand up the Hull defender, who looked completely dumfounded; it was two tries a piece at half time.

The second half did not start well for Macclesfield, some sloppy tackling got Hull into the red-zone and from a tap-penalty it looked like another rehearsed move, as their big Loose-head Prop took the ball at pace, dragging his tacklers over the line. The Macclesfield team were feeling the strain, the Hull pack had already been bolstered by four fresh forwards and more would follow, they had travelled with an abundance of replacements, whilst Macclesfield had only one player on the bench.

The Macc lads were doing their best to stem the tide, and they created an opportunity to attack from deep, but the ball was spilled giving up vital possession. It didn’t look like there was anything on for Hull, but a speculative chip over the top by their 10 bounced back into the on-rushing Hull Second Row, who took it to the line; the ball was quickly recycled, and they found sufficient space out wide to score their fourth try.

There one minute, gone the next!

After the restart the home-side put an attack together, with Danny Martin darting down the middle of the pitch, Hull infringed and Macclesfield were able to set up an attacking lineout. It was a little too far out for the previous successful catch-and-drives, so the ball was spun wide, it looked like the third try was on, but the last pass went behind. For the first time in the match Hull got the better of the Macc pack, winning consecutive scrum penalties, but Macclesfield held firm at the third managing to clear their lines.

It had been a competitive contest in tough conditions; Macclesfield fronted up well against the National One side, and there didn’t look to be two leagues separating the two sides. The scrum had functioned well against a bigger pack and the lineout was always slick, winning 90% of their own ball and a couple of Hull’s. Andy Appleyard was pleased with the performance, saying: “The boys did well, it was a step up from last week against Wharfedale, and they fronted up to it. The one-on-one tackling could have been better; the defensive structure was great but we missed too many crucial tackles that resulted in scores”. Andy was pleased with the new boys’ performance, but told me that there were two or three more, still to join the squad, as well as, all of those still due to return from holidays and injuries. Given the experiences of last season the squad is going to need as much strength in depth as possible, in what will be a very competitive season, with 6/7 teams quite capable of winning the league, which will be Macclesfield’s number one priority.

The season starts with an away fixture against newly promoted Manchester, it will be good to renew old rivalries; but before that the Cheshire Cup commences with an away fixture against Birkenhead Park on Thursday 25th August, kick-off will be 8.00 pm.

Macclesfield 2nd XV v Mold 1st XV

The 2nd team in action against Mold

Before the 1st team game the small crowd were entertained by a feast of running rugby, mostly from Macclesfield. The second team had lost both of their Props to Covid on Saturday morning, so the game was forced to be played with uncontested scrums, which probably didn’t do Mold any favours. The 2s played with a pace that Mold could not live with, recycling the ball with rapid efficiency until the gaps were created. The game finished 7 tries to 1 in favour of Macclesfield, a great start to the season for the boys – onwards!

One of the many tries being scored by the 2s

Harry Harding taking Hull on

#maccrugby

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