PIPPED UNDER THE POSTS

Macclesfield 22 – Sandbach 24

By David Wilkinson

Like Manchester at the start of September, Sandbach had waited a long time to have-a-go at Macclesfield, it had been over 30 years since the last league encounter, and they would have needed little motivation. There was plenty of support from Sandbach, travelling the mere 16 miles for this derby match, and they made themselves heard as their team ran onto the immaculate Priory Park pitch.

Try or no-try, forward or flat?

The team in red and green started as favourites, but it was Macclesfield that was having all of the early pressure, going through numerous phases, with Fly Half Charlie Attis executing some deft attacking chips, that twice came close to yielding results. Attacks were coming thick and fast, and on 10 minutes it seemed that Macclesfield were in for the first score, Attis threw a cut-out pass to Left Wing Sam Brown, who carefully drew his man before passing back inside to no. 15, Tom Jennings, with a clear run to the line. But ex Macc player and referee Jack Morehouse deemed the pass to be forward, which was hotly disputed by most in the Stand.

It would be Sandbach’s turn for 10 minutes of pressure; the difference was that they made it into the red-zone with a lineout, after a penalty for a collapsed maul. Their catch and drive was executed perfectly with Hooker Alex Bishop, coming up with the ball, and a five point lead. The alarm bells were ringing, and from the restart Sandbach were back on the attack, breaking the defensive line and flooding forward in numbers; phases went right and left, until Macc were stretched out right for an easy run-in for wing Laurie Essenhigh to score for a 10 point lead on 23 minutes.

It looked like more of the same for Sandbach as they pressed deep into the home side’s territory, once again they broke the line, and it looked like a certain try, but the final pass went forward. The pressure continued with numerous phases by the visitors that took them a metre out from the line, but Macc stood firm with James Oliver forcing a turnover.

No catching Tom Leicester as he races in to score first for Macclesfield

Macc managed to inch their way forward, until pressure was relieved when no. 7, Ross Sutherland, was Yellow Carded at a ruck. Macc were back on the attack, Phil Laing took a crash-ball down the middle, making good yards, but his pass to Right Wing Tom Leicester arrived with the defence; Tom Leicester would not have to wait long though for another opportunity. This time Sam Brown came in off his wing to make 30 metres down the middle, the ball was shipped to Tom Jennings, who forced the tackle from Sandbach’s no.13, before releasing Tom Leicester for an easy run-in, and Macc off the mark, it was 5 – 10 at half-time, and all to play for.

Sam Broster cleverly sees off the Full Back before powering in for Macc’s second try

The second half continued with Macclesfield applying all of the pressure, Danny Martin chipped over a ruck which caught the visitor’s defence napping and for once, their 15 being trapped in front of his posts. The resulting scrum gave an excellent platform to attack from, but the Sandbach defence held firm, prompting Charlie Attis to slide a grubber kick into the dead-ball area, which Brown nearly got to first. The relief for Sandbach would be brief, Attis was playing with confidence, drawing defenders up, before firing out passes, using the full width of the pitch and changing the point of attack, until there was an overlap on the right. Sam Broster didn’t need a second invitation, his pace and power taking him to the line to finish under the posts, for Macclesfield to lead for the first time this season 12 – 10.

Catch me if you can, as James Oliver breaks from the lineout to score

Sandbach had a good period of pressure, but Macclesfield’s tackling was solid; eventually a looping pass was thrown out to the Left Winger, who would have been in for a score, but he fumbled it, to the visible relief of the stand. From the scrum Macclesfield attacked from deep, Harry Oliver getting into a gap on his 22 and feeding Tom Jennings, who sped to half-way before releasing the electric Sam Brown, who looked quick enough to make it to the line, but as cover came across he cut inside and the attack eventually came to nothing, with the visitors clearing to the 22. From the ensuing lineout, it looked, at first, as if Macc had botched-it, the ball going above the grasp of Phil Laing in the middle, but it came down to the grateful grasp of James Cross, who slipped the ball to his Skipper; James Oliver was too fast and too strong to be denied the score. The Stand supporters were prematurely celebrating the conversion, but at the last moment the wind drifted the kick against the upright, which would prove to be costly.

Harry Oliver’s tricky footwork would put the Full Back on his backside as he sped in for the bonus point try

A few minutes after the restart Macclesfield gained a scrum on half-way, Dan Martin broke to the blind-side passing to Harry Oliver, who appeared to be well scragged by the Sandbach 4, now playing back-row, but Harry’s determination was too much, as he broke the tackle and sped towards the line, his quick feet put the Full Back on his backside and his pace was enough to get him over before the cover tacklers arrived. The “Whaa-Hoo” music blasted out to the raptures of the Priory Park faithful, it was a bonus-point-try for a 22 – 10 lead with twenty minutes left on the clock.

After the restart Macclesfield fluffed a lineout on the halfway line to put Sandbach into attack. Some poor defence made it far too easy for the visitors to put some serious pressure on Macc, driving into the red-zone. A crunching chop-tackle by Ben Holden on their big no.7 halted play for several minutes; it would restart under the sticks with a put-in by Nick Alsop, previously with Macc. The Sandbach pack were now revitalised by their replacements and easily got the shove on for the line, as it wheeled the post protector, protected Alsop as he picked from the base to score, 22 – 17 with 13 minutes left to play.

Macclesfield managed to regain some possession, and Charlie Attis fired a spiral bomb skywards, it appeared to be missed by both would-be catchers, bouncing into the hands of Sam Brown, who took it at speed; it looked like the icing on the cake for the home team as he raced to the line, but referee Jack Morehouse blew up for a knock-on, a big call from where he was, and a let off the hook for Sandbach.

With the clock ticking away Sandbach came straight back at Macc with a clever move that put their speedy 13 into space who took it to the line, it looked impossible for them not to score but somehow it was fluffed and Macc dropped-out from their line. The lineout was won by the visitors on the 22 and from three attacking phases the Macc defence had been pulled in creating an overlap to release their Right Wing, who made no mistakes this time. It was all square with the conversion to come, which was far from simple, but no. 13 James Preston, looked cool under pressure and slotted it between the posts.

Captain James Oliver crashes through to score the third

Macclesfield would have one last real chance, winning a penalty just inside the Sandbach half; Charlie Attis had no hesitation in going for goal, but it agonisingly fell short. It had been a proper derby game, where either side could have won it, played out to the last minute. It had been a big improvement for Macclesfield, after the previous three games, much appreciated by most home supporters in the Stand. The Coaches were both fundamentally disappointed, having got so close to getting their first win of the season; with Ben Wade saying: “The final result favoured the team that had shown more consistency this season, they were able to play out the game, helped by a strong bench, that improved their scrummaging; in contrast we probably tired a bit towards the end of the game, as well as a few decisions maybe not going our way, but it’s a difficult job for referees at this level, having no support from the sidelines. There will be more lessons learned from today, and we look forward to Matt Coleridge’s cutting up of the video to reveal-all next week”.

The challenge continues next week at Stockport, who lost for the first time this season away to Lymm.

 

Macclesfield 3s 26 – Northwich 2s 27

By Simon Grant

Macclesfield 3s fresh after their impressive victory over Wirral away the previous week took on a very robust well drilled second team from Northwich. With the normal issue,s due to player availability, Macclesfield managed to field a full squad of 18 after some tremendous work behind the scenes on Friday afternoon by skipper Harry Grant and Pat Ellis.

The start of the match did not go to plan with Northwich scoring under the posts after less than 3 minutes due to some confusion in the defence by Macclesfield. The next 15 minutes looked grim for Macc but the defence held well. Northwich did score another try but their excellent full back allegedly put a foot in touch so that try was chalked off and the score remained 7 nil.

That second disallowed try seemed to be the wakeup call that Macc needed, Dom McCarthey started to gain ground and make impressive gains in yardage, Rik Hopkin found his rhythm and the back line started to click very nicely. Coran Duncan and Chris Gleave combined well ending up with an attacking Scrum 5 metres out, Dom picking up from No 8 and powered over the line, Oli Wilson converting to level the scores at 7 points each.

Macclesfield then took control of the half scoring another try to lead at half time. The beginning of the second half, much like the first, didn’t start well for Macc as Northwich scored 2 quick tries to lead halfway through the second half. Macc then scored from broken play and again started to take ascendancy in the game.

15 minutes from the end Pete Hardwick took to the field already with a badly sprained ankle, replacing the injured Ollie Wilson. Again the dynamics of the game changed as Tom Aitchison broke cover passed inside to Coran Duncan who in turn passed to Pete Hardwick who then sprinted in from the 10 metre line to score under the posts, Macc lead by 6 points.

The 3s were hanging on into the final minutes of the game then heartbreak as Northwich took advantage of a Macc player in the bin as their winger skipped around our cover defence and scored under the post to make an easy conversion. This was to be the last action of the game and a 1 point loss after a very impressive performance.

Notable performances by Corben Holland, Ben Heginbotham and Elliot Jones, all ably led by skipper Harry Grant. A big thank you to the three lads from Congleton Rugby Club that helped out having had their games postponed, and played well.

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