Macclesfield 45 – Wirral 24

ONES UP TO 5TH – TWOS FINISH TOP

By David Wilkinson

Macclesfield’s form coming into the match was the best that it had been all season, added to which they had never lost to Wirral, although several contests had been very close. Wirral were also coming to Priory Park on the back of a good win against Northwich; and their Alikadoos were in a confident mood over lunch. The early part of the game was fairly even, with some butter-fingers by Macclesfield and numerous sets of ping-pong; the last of which was fielded by the Wirral 14 who dithered before his attempted clearance was charged down by Sam Adu into the hands of Harry Oliver. The ball was first shifted quickly to the left before the attacking line was set to come back right; Adu joined the line with the overlap on, he drew the attention of the last two defenders before a back-handed pass gave Harry Oliver an easy run to the line, Macclesfield were in front after 15 minutes.

Sam Adu slips a back-hand pass to Harry Oliver for the first score

 

After the restart Wirral had a period of possession, but the Macclesfield defensive line speed pegged them back, keeping them in their own half. Once Macclesfield got their hands on the ball they made good ground, with every phase, but each time they got into the red-zone were pinged for either not releasing or sealing off. Two attacks were punctuated by Wirral players’ high tackles, but quickly taken by Danny Martin, only to falter just short again, holding on. Wirral cleared, but at the lineout chose to go long, and for the second time they botched it at the back; the ball went quickly out to the backs with Terence Babarinsa charging deep into the visitor’s territory.  When it was recycled, just one phase was needed before Phil Laing took it to the defensive line delaying his pass for Rhys Davies to charge onto, and brush the cover aside, scoring between the posts, 12 – 0 after 25 minutes.

Terence Babarinsa charges down the middle before the second score

 

After the restart, twice Macclesfield tried to run it out of their 22, and at the second attempt they appeared to have done so, but again were penalised at the ruck for a side entry. Now for the first time in the match, Wirral were In a try-scoring situation. Their catch-and-drive was clinical with their big Second Row Paul Lewis getting over the line for a five-pointer.

Seb Pemberton at full stretch to secure Macc ball

 

Charlie Attis would clear with a monstrous 60 metre kick to touch with a 5 metre lineout resulting, but as the ball had been taken back into Macc’s half it would be a Wirral throw-in. This time they made no mistake, going short and retaining possession. They were halted before half-way, with the ball being trapped in the ruck, where Harry Oliver got studs in the face, unseen by the referee. Wirral would knock-on at the scrum, which set Macclesfield up; Babarinsa charged again and when Wirral were penalised short of their line, Macclesfield opted to scrummage. They were rock-solid, Phil Laing picked up from the base and went to the blind-side on the right, his, would-be, scoring pass was intercepted with a one-handed knock-on, sending Wirral’s 14 to the bin and the referee between the sticks to award a penalty try, 19 – 5 after 35 minutes.

Charlie Attis’s kicking made for much of Macclesfield’s success

 

Wirral kicked long and after one phase Attis chipped over the defence for Harry Oliver to catch the ball on the full, surging down the right; at the breakdown Martin threw a huge pass to Harry Harding, and when the ball came back to Attis, he sent a big high kick into the 22. The full back was under pressure as the Macclesfield defenders hunted him down, forcing him over the line and a scrum to Macc. Babarinsa darted to the blind-side and when the ruck was formed it had pulled the defence in-field leaving acres of space out on the right. Attis passed the ball with his foot via another delicate chip for Lloyd Smith-Coates to catch and dab-down. Attis converted to finish his forth element in the score, 26 – 5 with two minutes to half-time.

Wirral cleared downfield after the restart for a Macclesfield line-out, deep in their half. The ball was scrappy and Attis chip-kicked for Smith-Coates, he caught it on the volley, passing inside to Berry, who drew the last defender before putting Harry Oliver under the sticks for another clinical 7-pointer, 33 – 5.

Harry Oliver goes over for his second to finish a spectacular play

 

Macclesfield set the ball up from the restart with Attis receiving it on the 22, it was Groundhog Day: he chipped again to Lloyd Smith-Coates, who this time caught the ball on the full, immediately passing inside to Harry Oliver, who passed again inside to Phil Laing, who sprinted in from 40 metres for a 40 – 5 lead with only 4 minutes of the second half played.

Wirral’s Christopher Speed, lived up to his name as he raced down the middle of the pitch, beating several players on-route into the 22, where the visitors set up camp, and when they won a scrum 10 metres out they pulled the trigger. With plenty of space on the right they brought the full back into the line, and when he got Broster’s attention the Wirral Captain, Chris Crowley, threw out a long pass to Right Wing Daniel Harvey to waltz in; it was well converted by Full Back James Annetts, 40 – 12.

Wirral looked a different team; they were now attacking from deep, with some success. A penalty gave them a good position in the Macc half, but again they threw to the back, which was telegraphed and taken by Seb Pemberton. Attis cleared but number 8 Nick Hearn would finish the attack. He ran 40 metres before passing to their Right Wing who put a grubber-kick into the red-zone. Wirral were there quicker than Macc, and after one phase Hearn dived over from the ruck, 40 – 17.

The game was hotting-up, Macclesfield were penalised three time in quick succession, Wirral could now see a bonus point on the horizon; but Macclesfield got possession back, and Harry Oliver ran the ball out, releasing Tom Leicester, who was stopped with a high tackle. The referee blew for a penalty, which was immediately followed by the Wirral substitute Robert Pearl shoulder charging Danny Martin in the back, it was a cheap and dangerous shot off the ball, that frankly deserved more than a Yellow Card.

Danny Martin taps quickly and makes good ground to keep the momentum going

 

It would get worse for Danny Martin, as he was trying to clean-up some scrappy play he got hit from behind with a swinging arm, the force of it could have resulted in a red card for Nick Hearn, Wirral were now down to 13. Macclesfield attacked from the resulting lineout and when the ball got to Smith-Coates, he was also high tackled. Macclesfield were penalised after the lineout and Wirral would work their way back into an attacking position. Phil Laing received a Yellow Card for a late tackle and from the lineout we would again see Wirral’s very good driving maul; Macclesfield pulled it down before the line and the referee went under the posts again for Wirral’s bonus point.

MOTM Charlie Attis charges in for the last score of the contest

 

Attis was announced MOTM over the tannoy, and if anyone had any doubts, he put the icing on the cake of an excellent performance intercepting the ball and running in from 40 metres to score out wide on the left. It was the last score in a game that was won after 44 minutes through some clinical rugby. There was a bit of a sour taste left in the mouth as the game had got a bit tetchy and Macc would be without their Scrum Half for the rest of the league season.

Head Coach, Ben Wade, had prepared the team well, their finishing had again been clinical and the set-piece solid throughout, he had this to say: “I was pleased with the overall performance; we played some very good rugby and continue to go in the right direction. It wasn’t perfect; we will want to look at our maul defence before we face Manchester next week. We are missing several players next week through injury and availability, but we have options within the squad, the second team lads know the structure, and I know will step up to the challenge. The team will be relishing the re match at Priory Park after the first game of the season, and Marshy (ex Macc Coach, Marshall Gadd) will have them ready for us again, although we’re a different team now.”

The result pushes Macclesfield up to 5th place, their highest position this season. It’s plain to see that a number of the squad have developed their games during the season, and the team now plays with confidence in all facets. With a few players now likely to return from injury it should be an exciting end to the season: Manchester on Saturday, followed by Burnage on the 18th, both at home, and then the Final of the Cheshire Cup against Sandbach at Lymm on the 25th. The Papa Johns Community Cup will then start in April; Macclesfield will play in Regional Division 1, in either the Cup, Plate or Bowl competitions, subject to final league positions; the finals being played at Twickenham.

 

TWOS TRIUMPHANT CHAMPIONS

Macclesfield 80 – Sedgley Park 15

By Paul Jakobowski

Macclesfield 2nd XV NOWIRUL League Division 1 Champions

With promotion secured last weekend against Vale of Lune, a win would ensure that the second XV would be crowned champions of the NOWIRUL League Division 1 as well as maintaining an unbeaten record at home this season. The team trained well on Thursday and the feeling within the squad was that it was time that they put in a complete 80-minute performance. Unfortunately for Sedgley Park that performance coincided with their visit to Priory Park.

The seconds welcomed the return of Ben Hadfield, Isaac Reany and Captain Sam Jones after injury and started with intent, playing at pace with the forwards providing quick ball to the backs resulting in  two scores from Hadfield plus tries from Alex Hart and Harry Owens, Isaac Reany converting all four tries as Macclesfield built up a 28- 0 lead. The seconds were in complete control and were only tested when Sedgley used their heavier forwards to maul. Sedgley had one clear opportunity to score in the first half but resolute defence on their own try line from the seconds ended in Sedgley conceding a penalty and Macclesfield clearing their lines.  The game now developed into a pattern of contrasting styles. Sedgley looked to use their forwards to run directly at Macclesfield and the seconds dealt with this threat with hard tackling and slowing the Sedgley ball down at the ruck often winning turnovers. Macclesfield when in possession looked to ruck quickly   and move the ball wide to their pacey and skilful backs and off load the ball to supporting runners.

Jubilant Champions

 

After half time Sedgley drove over from a lineout to score the first of three tries as the seconds conceded some needless penalties. Sedgley continued to use their forwards in midfield drives but were gaining no momentum and tiring. Macclesfield simply soaked up pressure and scored at will. The backs were now playing at a pace and with such confidence that the opposition simply could not live with it. Tries followed from Max Dempsey, Carl Droy, Harry King, Isaac Reany, Hector Tomlinson, a second for Harry Owens and a brace for Nick Foster to complete proceedings, with Reany converting all but two tries during the game. All credit to Sedgley Park who kept going to the very end, but they caught Macclesfield on a day when they were firing on all cylinders.  To conclude the afternoon, it was fantastic to see all the home supporters and first XV squad stay out in the stands and on the pitch applauding the lads as they received the league trophy from club chairman Stephen Branch before beginning celebrations that went on into the early hours of Sunday morning.

The seconds now have three away games to conclude the league season, next week they visit Firwood Waterloo who are currently second in the league, a tough challenge awaits as a win would probably enable the home side to gain promotion.

Photography courtesy of Martin Pickles

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