PENALTY COUNT COSTLY FOR MACC

Northwich 38 – Macclesfield 34

By David Wilkinson

The previous contest this season caught Macclesfield napping. Still reeling from the loss to Manchester on the opening day of the season they gave Northwich a lead that they just couldn’t claw back. Whilst Macc were strong in the scrum that day, the lineout was a disaster; which gave Northwich plenty of ammunition to attack with, besides a couple of gift tries.

Northwich won back possession at the kick off, but Macclesfield’s pressure forced them to fumble and won possession back. The ball reached Harry Oliver who beat the first man before feeding his right wing; Lloyd Smith Coates made good ground before the ball was recycled back left with a cut-out pass to Jennings, who passed back inside to Sam Brown in support, who in turn got the ball to Jason Simpson to force his way over the line for the first score. But the try had come at a cost, with Simo having to leave the field, which looked like a reoccurrence of his previous long-term shoulder injury.

Lloyd Smith-Coates crashes over for Macclesfield’s second try (Big Pitch Media)

It had been a blistering start, and more was to follow; Northwich were penalised at the restart, resulting in good attacking ball for Macclesfield. The ball was spun out to the left with Lloyd Smith-Coates joining the line from the right; it was quickly recycled back to the right where Rhys Davies straightened the line, getting close himself. One quick phase would find Harry Oliver who slipped it to Smith-Coates to bump and stretch over, for the second score. Macclesfield were ten points to the good after barely 6 minutes.

Harry Oliver goes over for Macclesfield’s third try

Macclesfield were penalised at the restart, and the Northwich kicker converted from wide out on their left. After the restart Macclesfield really put the pressure on their hosts; one extended attack faltered with a 50/50 ball, that wasn’t needed; a second attack took them to the line, only for it to be fumbled just short. Macclesfield looked in total control; Northwich just couldn’t get their hands on the ball. The hosts pack was solid at the resulting 5 metre scrum, but number 8 and captain, Richard Dale, made a rare mistake, under no real pressure he made a poor pass that ended up by his Inside Centre’s feet. It was an early Christmas present for Harry Oliver, and he made no mistake, to take the score to 17 – 3 with less than 20 minutes on the clock.

After words had been said, the restart would be a penalty for Macclesfield. Louis Singleton covering for the sick Charlie Attis, had, at this stage, left his kicking boots at home, slicing the ball for the third time, although this one went backwards (he did find his boots for the rest of the game). The Macc throw was deemed not-straight, and for once Northwich could pro-actively put an attack together, from the lineout their 12 made excellent ground but the final pass was dropped and Macclesfield gained relief.

From a quickly taken penalty Nothwich got back into Macc’s territory. Macclesfield were penalised at the scrum engagement and again Northwich went quick, with their powerful Hooker getting over. It continued to go well for the home-side; they recycled the ball quickly, and from a play on the right their big number 13, rode a tackle before making good yards and feeding their Left Wing, who beat his man before passing back inside, returning the favour for the 13 to go over, to make it 17 – 17.

Dan Percival going into contact (Big Pitch Media)

Broster left the field for an HIA, which meant a reshuffle in the backline. Northwich pressed again, forcing Macc to infringe, who were marched a further 10 yards back, which cost them a lineout on the 5 metre line. Northwich threw short, but knocked-on trying to go over. At the 15 metre scrum the Macc pack were driven off the ball and penalised; up until this point the scrums had looked even. Northwich, now sniffing blood, went for the scrum again, but Macc were settled and held firm; although the backs in their desperation to defend, were caught offside. The home side tapped to their powerful South African Tight-head, but the Macc defence stood strong, and after several attempts to cross the line Northwich were penalised at the ruck.

Tom Jennings made good ground from the penalty, but after driving the lineout they were called back for a scrum, the remaining minutes of the first half fizzled out.

Northwich started the second half in determined mood, freeing up the Left Wing, who beat his man, but was caught by Smith-Coates and forced into touch. The home side won the ball back after the lineout and went through numerous phases until it reached the hands of their strong-running 13, who crashed through the first tackle before cleverly shipping the ball out at the next tackle for Northich to get over for their third try and a 7-point lead.

Northwich attacked from the restart with their speedy Full Back getting outside his man, he chipped ahead as the cover came over, but Sam Brown was first to the touchdown; if the referee had had eyes in the back of his head, it could have been a penalty in front of the posts, for a late challenge/block. However, it made little difference as a few phases after the restart Northwich had a simple kick to increase their lead.

Rhys Davies takes in the lineout unopposed

James Cross came on off the bench, and the extra weight was giving Macc an edge in the driving maul. A serious of phases worked them down the left touchline, and from a penalty and lineout driving maul they forced Northwich over their line for Berry to score a bonus-point try, 27 – 24. Macclesfield would level the scores just a minute after the restart, with a long-range penalty from Jennings.

Again Northwich pressed, and twice their cavalier approach to keep the ball alive worked; Macclesfield had a lucky escape after a quick tap-penalty, but were able to relieve the pressure. They were then penalised at the scrum and there was no hesitation by their 10 to take the points and edge ahead again.

Macclesfield put a good attack together, winning a scrum deep into the 22 but were strangely penalised on the feed; they attacked again after winning the free-kick lineout, but were again penalised. Northwich’s 15 made a big clearance to put them back on the attack in Macc’s 22, and again Macclesfield were penalised with skipper James Oliver being sent to the bin. It looked a harsh call for a no-arms tackle, as the player had spun-out of the impact, the lead was increased to 33 – 27.

After a deft chip over Macclesfield’s backline, Northwich threw everything at Macc, wave after wave took them to the line, and eventually they found an overlap with a long pass to the Right Wing for a simple score and their bonus point.

Macc put the pressure on before their 5th try

With 5 minutes left on the clock, Macclesfield needed to pull a rabbit out of the hat, and they went for it with gusto! Northwich were penalised for crossing, and Harry Oliver seized on the ball to tap to himself and make 20 metres, the ball was fired out to the right, which led to a Macc scrum inside the 22. The Macc pack got the scrum on the move, tying in the Back Row; Danny Martin fired the ball out to Louis Singleton, who went for the inside shoulder of the 12, and as the 12 moved, Louis slipped the ball to Harry Oliver who went under the sticks to bring it back to 38 – 34, it was the best score of the game.

There were two minutes left on the clock, and Northwich were in no hurry to get on with it, they kicked deep and after a few phases Macclesfield won a penalty. Jennings went for distance, but it didn’t find touch. The hosts ran it back at Macc, they were now in control of the match, and when the referee indicated that time was up they smashed the ball off the pitch.

It had been a highly competitive seesaw contest, in which Macclesfield scored five tries to four, but were undone by the penalty count. Northwich are currently blessed with some talented players and are a completely changed side to last season’s. Northwich worked hard to get their penalty opportunities and deserved the win. Macclesfield were disrupted by the injuries coming into the game and the two that they suffered during it.

Head Coach, Ben Wade, was naturally disappointed with the result: “It was a great start by the boys, and they played some good rugby throughout; but Northwich were a big physical side, they took their chances well. We didn’t always get the rub-of-the-green, but that’s rugby, we did get two points out of it, so that was something. The injuries certainly affected us, particularly Broster’s, which meant players having to play out of position”.

It’s very sad to lose Simo again, after his long layoff, and Wadey will be hoping that the current crop of injured players are all soon on the mend. On Saturday they take on Rossendale in another tough encounter.

Macclesfield 2nd XV kept up their winning ways with a big score at home against Glossop, 40 – 5; Coach Russ Tomlinson reported that Colt Sam Davies had again scored, and also made a try.

Macclesfield 4ths 23 – Eccles Vets 19

By Terry Robson

When the mighty fourth relinquished their league position at the end of season 2021/2 they decided to only play friendly fixtures on a fortnightly basis.  It hasn’t really worked out like that and due to shortage of players or oppositions cancelling this was only their third match of the season.

The side was a mixture of regulars and some returning to the fold like Scott Goodfellow and Jack Pearce with a few new faces in Matt McNamara and Dan Kingston.

At times they played fluid running rugby where forwards and backs combined successfully.  However, there were phases when the team struggled to find rhythm, the match being quite even until the last 10 minutes when things fell into place and the home side sealed victory.

The four tries were all scored by tight forwards Jim Welch and Kingston the two locks each touching down; actually it was Jim’s  first try for five seasons, so he was delighted!  John Poyser from tight head contributed two and like prop forwards do afterwards he made the most of it, claiming to have run from the 22 line with four would-be tacklers unable to bring him to ground; wonderfully aggressive play John, congratulations.

Paul Smith and Olly Wilson at half backs were used to each other’s styles so this combination was very settled with Wilson’s kicking game from hand, always both a defensive plus and an attacking asset. Isaac Hayes is also a newcomer; his covering and tackling from blind-side flanker kept turning over Eccles’ possession in the rucks, the team are hoping he will make himself available for future games.

The side’s next match is on Friday evening away at Wilmslow. Rupert Dixon has assumed the mantel of Team Secretary; his difficulty is turning out a full 15 plus substitutes off the bench – a great opportunity for rugby, whatever your age.

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