RESOLUTE RESULT AGAINST THE OLD BOYS

Sandbach 7 – Macclesfield 25

By David Wilkinson

This much anticipated rearranged fixture would feature, Tom Morton and Myles Hall, recently of this parish. It would naturally have an edge with local bragging-rites up for grabs. The game started lively with immediate pressure from Sandbach; Macclesfield relieved the pressure with a deep kick, but when the ball was run back from the lineout, James Oliver took a shot on the chin from what looked like a forearm, as he went in for the tackle; losing your Captain and number 8 was not the best of starts for such a tough test.

Macclesfield set up a good attack of the top of the lineout, early in the game

Sandbach attacked again from the scrum restart, and went through multiple phases until Macclesfield eventually ripped the ball in a tackle. Although trapped in their red-zone, they didn’t panic, they bided their time until Terence Babarinsa and Harry Oliver combined, inter-passing and taking the ball to halfway, until a high-shot gave Macclesfield a penalty.

Macc were now in the home side’s 22, but a forward pass after the lineout, would give Morton, the Macc ex Captain, the chance to clear deep. Macclesfield gradually worked their way back, and a quickly taken penalty by Danny Martin got Macc on the front foot. When the ball came out to Charlie Attis, he called the move; and a deft chip flat-footed the defence, with the ball bouncing into Harry Oliver’s hands; he will have taken pleasure in skinning Myles Hall, as he raced in for the first score, and 5 points ahead after 14 minutes.

Morton kicked deep from the re start, but Macclesfield were confident with ball in hand, and went through 8 phases on the edge of their 22, until Attis spotted that Sandbach were light on the left. He fed Seb Pemberton, taking a short line that isolated Morton, who had rushed up trying to prevent the overlap. The damage had been done 60 metres from the try line; Pemberton galloped away, drawing the last defender to give Harry Oliver an easy run-in for his brace and a ten point lead after 18 minutes.

The Macclesfield pack’s driving maul is too powerful to stop the third try

From the restart Macclesfield worked their way up the field, helped along by a Sandbach penalty. And when Macclesfield got another, resulting in a 5 metre lineout, there was no stopping them. A short ball to two, and the maul was being driven over, for Phil Laing to get the grounding, for a simple score, and a 15 point lead.

Phil Laing gets the ball down over the line for the third try

This time Macclesfield chose to kick, following the restart, and the home-side ran it back, Morton floated a miss pass out to their number 8 on the left, who made it look easy beating the cover to score and cut the deficit to 7 – 15 after 25 minutes.

Sandbach now had their tails up, and they threw the kitchen sink at Macclesfield. After two driving mauls from 5 metres out, Dan Percival was adjudged by referee Jack Morehouse of collapsing the maul and sent to the bin. The pressure went up another level, and at the next scrum Macc were forced to swap Elliot Alston for front row forward Tom Burden. It got worse, penalty after penalty. Macclesfield were warned and were lucky that they didn’t go down to 12. At the umpteenth scrum on 5 metres Morehouse surprisingly penalised Sandbach, for driving-up in the scrum, and the relief of ‘Mafeking’ was complete; it had been a massive defensive effort.

The remainder of the half was a series of errors, some of which were not fully accepted by both Captains.  Sandbach had another foray deep into the visitor’s territory, but again it came to nothing. Sandbach had had the lion’s share of the 47-minute-half, but with only one score to their credit, which would prove costly.

Seb Pemberton climbs the highest to secure possession at the lineout

The second half was attritional, there was little rugby to be played of note, and the referee seemed to be more involved than one would want. On the few occasions that Macclesfield got into an attacking situation it came to nothing through poor execution, one was after a dummy to kick by Attis, which disguised a pass to Babarinsa, who made good yards before the move faltered. Sandbach piled on the pressure, and when Burden seemed to be harshly penalised for a high tackle, Sandbach went quick. Brendan Berry, who had had another outstanding game, scuttled back before tackling. Morehouse said that he was not 10 metres and sent him to the bin, which he may have second thoughts about on watching the video. Sandbach fluffed the kick, and Macclesfield would get relief. They managed a rare sortie into their hosts territory, and when Sandbach challenged Morehouse’s decision at the ruck, they were marched another 10 metres back. The kick was now in range, and although the strong cross-wind had proved troublesome all afternoon, Attis’s kick took the score to 7 – 20.

Tom Jennings dives over for the bonus point try in the 82nd minute

Sandbach were again back on the attack, but a scrum to Macc gave the opportunity to escape; Attis took it with spades! A huge 50/22 from his own 10 metre line, pitched 5 metres out, and although Macclesfield couldn’t win the lineout, they would now set up camp. Macc were pinged at the scrum and Bach went quick, trying to run it out from their red-zone, but Macclesfield’s defence was rock-solid. With their eye on the five point victory, they spurned an academic kick at goal and went for the corner, two phases later and Harry Oliver fed a short ball to Tom Jennings on the crash; he had no trouble in getting over for a 7 – 25 victory.

A five-pointer and up to 6th after another win away

Statistically Sandbach had had a big meaty-chunk in the middle of the sandwich, but failed to score when they were camped in the Macc red-zone for extended periods. It had been Macclesfield’s defence that saved the day, combined with the fast three-try start to the game – it wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but a good win, won well. Head Coach, Ben Wade, was rightly pleased: “It was another good win on the road; it wasn’t the fast track, like the previous week, which probably suited them more. We made mistakes, which we will look at in the week, but we were clinical in scoring the points. Although Sandbach had long periods of possession, I was never concerned about the outcome; the boys stuck to their guns and kept them out, it was a big defensive effort. Next week is another challenge, Wirral have had some very good results, but we will be happy to be back on our big wide pitch”.

Elsewhere, the 2nd team has virtually guaranteed promotion, after their win, 48 – 15 against Vale of Lune; with the third team and Ladies losing their encounters. Next week Wirral come back to Priory Park, for three home fixtures on the trot, before the Cup competition starts. More good news for our young lads as Haydn Keogh played his second mat for North of England U18s, beating the Midlands in a close match 38 – 34.

Macclesfield 38 – Whitchurch 26

By Phil Mason

Whitchurch travelled with 12 players, but to their credit they just wanted to play rugby!  Macclesfield loaned them two players: Finn O’Brien and Ed Whittingham, to make it 14-a-side.  This is what Colts Rugby is about – making sure the game is on.

On a sunny afternoon Macclesfield took the kick-off and took the ball into possession competing hard and playing the phases.  Quick ball from the first three rucks, flicked out wide and Macclesfield scored the first try, 7 – 0.

The restart was gathered well, and passed quickly, only to be lost forwards.  Both packs took to the scrum, and were evenly matched, although when the Whitchurch 8 picked up from the base he was turned over and fast Macc hands then saw a break down the wing with Macclesfield scoring their second, 14 – 0.

Whitchurch started to wake-up, and worked the ball through the centre, driving hard and keeping possession.  A penalty gave Whitchurch a lineout deep in Macclesfield’s territory, good arrows and quick ball from the back of the lineout and got them on the board, but they missed the conversion, 14 – 5.

Whitchurch’s restart didn’t go 10m so a scrum back for Macclesfield, but Whitchurch’s pack came into play again and they won the scrum, with their 8 opting for a pick and go, gaining territory.  Macclesfield infringed at the breakdown, and Whitchurch punished at the lineout scoring again under the posts, converting to make it 14 – 12.

The restart gathered well, and Macclesfield went on the drive again, pushing hard and keeping the ball in possession. Pressure and play all going to Macclesfield, and the third try was in the bag, conversion missed though making it 21 – 12.

As the clock ticked down towards half-time, both sides were determined to make their mark.  With three minutes to go, possession was hard fought, and no team would concede ground.  After a period of Whitchurch pressure, Olly Lyons (Player of the week) turned the ball over on the halfway line.  Fast ball out of the back and a switch to blind-side released Max Woods for his first of two tries, making the bonus point for 26 – 12 at half time.

Some fresh legs on for Whitchurch and suddenly they turned on the gas, with their big forwards and wide passes finding gaps in the Macclesfield defence.  Driving hard into the Macclesfield red zone, Whitchurch hit back hard, scoring and converting 26 – 19; and it was all to play for!

It seemed Macclesfield had switched off, as Whitchurch had a quick turnover following the restart, pushing the Macclesfield defence back and punching through the defence, keeping ball.  Macclesfield managed to repel the attack, and with a penalty awarded they kicked to the corner, winning the lineout and scoring 31-19.

Whitchurch again upped the game and were not going to let this go unanswered. A deep kick into the Macclesfield 22 was chased hard and gathered well.  Macclesfield were caught off side and Whitchurch played the penalty well, winning the lineout and scoring in the corner, followed with a superb conversion to make it Macc 31 – 26 Whitchurch.

With 5 minutes to go the game was close enough for our guests to win. Macclesfield gathered the restart, and played through the phases gaining ground but lost the ball to a huge Whitchurch tackle.  Whitchurch pushed hard, and threatened to score for the win, however, they infringed and the Macclesfield penalty cleared the lines!

Drama over?  No!  Macclesfield fumbled the lineout giving Whitchurch possession, and they pushed into the Macclesfield half as the clock ran towards 0.  Game on! A forward pass from Whitchurch gave Macclesfield a scrum against a tiring Whitchurch pack. Judged to have wheeled the free kick to Macclesfield up the park hit the mark, and finally Macclesfield went over to seal the game, with the extras added, 38 – 26.

Finn O’Brien and Ed Whittingham

A close game played in the true spirit of rugby and special mentions to Finn O’Brien and Ed Whittingham for their sportsmanship playing with Whitchurch – rugby was the winner.

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