Macclesfield 26 – Northwich 50

By David Wilkinson

After the very sad news of the Queen’s death, on Thursday, there was obvious uncertainty of any rugby being played on Saturday; however the RFU deemed that the best course of action would be to cancel all games on Friday but go ahead with rugby fixtures on Saturday. There was much support from both clubs at Priory Park, to join together as a rugby family, as everyone remembered Her Majesty’s devotion to duty during a minute’s silence and reflection.

The pre-match talk had been about Macclesfield’s poor showing against Manchester and Northwich’s strengthening during the close season. Last season, after promotion, they devoid of their usual overseas players, they were unable to field a competitive team, but during the summer they had recruited well with players from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as others. At kick-off they were unrecognisable as the team that had lost every game last season.

After several phases Northwich kicked deep, there seemed to be some hesitation in gathering the ball; and from the ensuing ruck Macclesfield were penalised, and punished with a conversion from the touchline by winger Tom Husband.  Macclesfield were straight back into attack winning a lineout, but the ball was fumbled. From the scrum the Macclesfield backline pressed, but were harshly penalised for encroaching beyond 5 metres. Northwich cleared their line and then kicked deep, the ball being fielded well by Macclesfield; however the return kick, went directly to the on-rushing backline, with the ball being spun wide to the left wing. A speculative kick and chase and an over-the-head pass found a Northwich player, who passed inside to their South African Tighthead Prop for an easy score – Macclesfield were 10 points in arrears.

Sam Broster using his power to break the tackle to score

At the time it didn’t seem to be the-end-of-the-earth, as Macc hit back with Sam Brown nearly being set free on the left wing. Another few phases and Charlie Attis fired out to high-speed passes, the second finding Sam Broster on the charge, who brushed-off three tacklers to score, it was 5 – 10. The Northwich Right Wing had taken a knock to the head trying to make the tackle, and looked likely to leave the field; however he stayed on, and was almost faultless in his goal-kicking all afternoon.

Sam Broster gets over the whitewash for Macc’s first try

Northwich were on the attack again; several phases saw them create a crash ball move for one of their big forwards who bounced of the would-be Macc tackler, the ball eventually falling kindly for the visitors, who thought that they were over again, but the final pass was forward. Macclesfield won themselves a line-out near the halfway, but it was botched in the middle with Northwich charging deep into Macc territory. The visitors’ 8 made good ground in the tackle before the ball was spun wide to their big, on-rushing, Kiwi Loosehead Prop, who stayed on his feet to release the ball for try number two – the result of poor execution at the lineout and poor tackling; the malaise in the tackling department seemed to have carried over from the Manchester game.

Charlie Attis tried to take a quick lineout from half-way but the referee overruled it, for reasons unknown. After botching the previous lineout Macclesfield threw to the back, which was easily intercepted. The Northwich 8, a converted Centre, was now positioned at 12, he cut inside his opposite number and raced clear, passing to a support runner for the simplest of tries. Once again poor execution at the lineout and poor tackling had undone Macclesfield, it was 5 -24 after 30 minutes.

Sam Brown injects pace into the line coming off his wing

At the next lineout Macc cut their numbers to 3 and Seb Pemberton won cleanly to set up a series of attacks, they won another lineout at 2 and Sam Brown got very close to going over after an Attis cut-out pass, Macc tried to keep the ball alive but the visitors managed to hack the ball to the halfway line to clear the danger. The ball was over-thrown in the lineout and Northwich were back on the attack. A high tackle gave their 14 another shot at goal, but for once it fell short.

Macc Pack driving hard in the maul

Macclesfield demolished Northwich at the next scrum, gaining a lineout in the visitor’s half, but a quick throw to the front was telegraphed with Northwich stealing; but Macc pressed and won a penalty just outside the 22. Given the inaccuracies of the lineout it may have been better to take a scrum, but it went to the corner, the resulting lineout was thrown to the back, but not straight. Macclesfield forced Northwich to collapse at the resulting scrums, but the referee blew for halftime.

Brendan Berry took over the throwing-in after the restart and the ball was secured at the back, with a good attack down the left flank, but the visitors forced Macclesfield back until the ball was spilled. Another attack down the left flank led to a catch and drive, but Northwich cleverly did not engage to create a maul and won the ball back. After several phases Macclesfield opted for the scrum, instead of a penalty, and it nearly paid-off, but Harry Oliver was flung into touch by his opposite number just before the line.

Macc were still in an attacking position with a lineout on the 22, but Brendan Berry had left the field and the throwing-in duty went back to Marcus Pyle, who had being having a difficult day; calling the ball to the back, was hardly sympathetic, and the ball was over-thrown. Possession changed hands several times until the Visitor’s 15, not for the first time made good ground running from deep, the move progressed up the middle of the pitch and good handling and support put the left wing in at the corner. From the restart, Northwich put another attack together with their 10 finding a big gap between two forwards, sprinting to the 22 where their Outside Centre was released for a free run to the line, for their 5th try, to make it 5 – 36.

Macclesfield put a series of attacks together, and after two quickly taken penalties it looked like a score was on, but the ball was spilled, and the visitor’s speedy 15 picked up the gift and ran the length of the pitch to take the score to 5 – 43; nothing was going right for the home side.

Harry Oliver’s quick thinking and strength get him over the line

From the restart, Macclesfield won a penalty and the resulting lineout, was won by Harry Owens, on debut, taking cleanly at the front. Macc were pressing hard to get something else on the score-sheet, and when play broke down the referee called them back for a penalty; Harry Oliver quickly tapped to himself and was over, the score now 12 – 43.

From the restart Macclesfield had a defensive lineout in their half, the ball was lost at the back and the visitors had yet another platform to attack from; quick hands got the ball to within 5 metres, where their South African prop collected from the ruck to go over for his second and their half century.

Sam Brown’s sheer pace gets him over the line for Macc’s third try

Macclesfield drove Northwich back at the next scrum, the ball squirted out, was gathered by Phil Laing and Danny Martin darted for the line, only to be stopped by a high-tackle, resulting in a yellow card. It should have been a penalty try, but at the restart Macc opted for the scrum and drove to the line, unfortunately Captain James Oliver knocked-on, over the line. The visitors kicked to clear, but didn’t find touch, and after 3 phases the ball was spun out to Sam Brown on the left wing, who used his sheer pace to score.

Marcus Pyle gets over for the bonus point

Macclesfield were back in the visitors’ half after the restart, keeping the ball alive and going through the phases. Danny Martin was now on-fire, taking a quick tap penalty and wriggling through the defence to within 2 metres; it only needed one ruck for Marcus Pyle to burrow over for the bonus-point try. The final minutes continued to be all Macc, but they couldn’t get over again, the game finishing 26 – 50. The team had showed a level of determination in the last 15 minutes that could have made a huge difference, had it been there for the 80, but it was too-little-too-late.

It was the first victory for Northwich in 18 months, and they fully deserved it. That said the Macclesfield players gave them plenty of ball to play with, after poor execution at the lineout, this was compounded by some poor individual tackling. For the second week running, the players need to take a long hard look at their individual performances. Head Coach Andy Appleyard and the coaching team will have work on their hands, to get the players refocused for next week’s challenge away at Rossendale, who now have the benefit of number eight Matt Lamprey. Elliot Alston and Harry Blackwell will be back in the mix, and it’s hoped that Will Davies will be OK in two weeks time.

Elsewhere the 2nd XV had a narrow win 15 – 12 away to Glossop; the 3rd XV had an excellent home win 60 – 22 against Heaton Moor 2nd XV; and the Colts went down to Southport 10 – 32.

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