Sandal 15 – Macclesfield 32

By David Wilkinson

Talk on the bus, going over the Pennines, was all about the reasoning, from the RFU, to restructure the leagues to reduce travelling, and the size of the leagues to reduce the number of fixtures for player welfare. And yet here we were playing through April and travelling to Yorkshire and Derbyshire. The more cynical might suggest that sponsorship money may have had some bearing on the RFU’s empty treasure-chest. That said the Macc lads were up for it, which was far from the case up and down the country with almost 100 teams pulling out of the contest. We met last week’s opponents Sandbach at the motorway services, on their way to take on Cleckheaton. Even though they were without half of last week’s team, due to their Scrum Half’s wedding, they fulfilled the fixture going down 49 – 15.

Jake Adams of Sandal gets on the outside to score

The Sandal squad were also short of a few players through unavailability, including their sizeable Second Row Thompson, who was busy enforcing with the Force. Macclesfield were also 5 players missing from the Cheshire Cup team, but the players coming in to the playing 18 were all from the first team squad. It was evident from the kick-off, that there was a touch of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ following Macclesfield’s Cheshire Cup success. Tackling by the visitors was not to the usual standard and the hosts punished Macclesfield for their sloppiness, breaking tackles and making good ground down their left flank; 22 metres out Full Back Jake Adams got on the outside with enough space to open the scoring with barely a minute played.

Sam Broster gets the first try for Macclesfield

Sandal were quickly back into their running from the restart, off-loading well in the tackle and finding holes in Macclesfield’s defence, it was most unlike the Cheshire Cup winners. Eventually Macclesfield got their hands on the ball and started to play some rugby. At this point the scrum looked fairly even but Macclesfield had a definite edge in the close quarters, making good ground at the pick and drives. Macclesfield won a penalty on halfway and Charlie Attis kicked into the very corner on the left. From the lineout the ball was shifted to the right, first Brendan Berry charged, and then Harry Harding, almost getting over. Macclesfield now looked in determined mood, and from a scrum on 5 metres they switched their attack to the left, when the ball reached Sam Broster on the left wing he had the edge on the cover tacklers, he made no mistake, and with Attis converting from far out on the left, Macclesfield took the lead on 19 minutes, 5 – 7.

The Macc pack trundles to the try line

Following the restart, Macclesfield went straight back to their work, making good ground with every phase, again winning a scrum on 5 metres, several scrums followed, with Macc now getting the upper-hand. Another surge to the line, and Macclesfield were over, but the ball was deemed to be held-up and Sandal escaped. When the home team won the ball back, one could see that Sandal had lost none of their enthusiasm to try and break the Macclesfield line, and they did. From a lineout deep on the left they went through a series of phases until a driving maul got them over the line 10 – 7.

The red-card incident

Following the restart Sandal’s no.6 ran the ball back at Macclesfield charging at Elliot Alston. Alston stood his ground; it was a big impact the Sandal forward raising his arm into the contact. The referee, who has previously suffered criticism from yours truly, said that he had seen head-contact and brandished his red card, in his usual dramatic fashion. It was a decision that dumfounded the tackled player as well as everyone else looking on. With Macclesfield down to 14 for the remaining 60 minutes and without the bulky presence of their no.8, the prospects did not look good.

Harry Harding crashes over for the second try

However, teams with a man down can often rise to the predicament that they face, and that was certainly the case at the next scrum, as the Cheshire seven pushed the Yorkshire eight back. Macclesfield were looking the stronger, even with a man down; Sandal were caught offside on 40 metres and Attis punished them with the penalty kick to draw level, 10 – 10. It was now all Macclesfield, and they were determined to prosper from their pressure. When an attack on the right flank was recycled the ball came back quickly inside to Harry Harding on the charge, although there seemed to be a line of defenders to repel him, he broke through their tackles to score close to the posts; it was 10 – 17 at half-time.

Harry Oliver’s 60 metre dash for the third try

Macclesfield had also lost Seb Pemberton to a knee injury, which required Wing Sam Broster to move into the back row; it made little difference at scrum-time as Macclesfield still had the ascendency. Harry Oliver picked up the ball 60 metres out, and after beating the first defender it looked as if he’d been scragged, but his strength and determination broke the grip of the would-be tackler and he was away. His pace was too much for his opposite number in pursuit, getting his umpteenth try of the season. Harry like his brother, leads by example, and never has a poor game; his Centre play has developed with power, pace and considerable guile, and his tackling is fearsome – no doubt a nightmare to play against.

Sandal did get some protracted periods of possession but Macclesfield’s mean defence kept them at bay. Frustration was building as Sandal were penalised again thwarting another attack, Tom Doig who is known by the Sandal supporters for his penchant for yellow, having produced it 9 times in a recent game against Cleckheaton, reached to his pocket sending Danny Grainger to the bin to calm down; one can only imagine for an unkind utterance.

Will Davies starts the move for the final Macclesfield try

Sandal, were now without their Outside Centre, and also down to 14 and exposed. Macclesfield took advantage quickly attacking through their backs. Oliver made good ground feeding Will Davies joining the line, the attack was thwarted this time, but within minutes the attack was repeated. This time they got on the outside, the ball was fed to Sam Brown, who straightened, with Will Davies looping around. Brownie, who loves to cross the whitewash, could have pinned his ears back, and gone for the score, but he did the right thing, drawing the last defender to slip the ball to Davies who was assured of the score. At 10 – 29, it was a bonus point score that might become all-important in this mini-league of 3 contests.

There was still a bit of a twist to the game; Louis Singleton had come on to replace Dan Martin at Scrum Half, and after 6 minutes Doig brandished his third card, to the smiling miscreant! Macclesfield would have to play the remainder of the contest 15 against 13. It provided sufficient impetuous for Sandal to throw the kitchen-sink at Macc, which they did with Danny Grainger scoring out wide on their left. Macclesfield saw the rest of the game out, and when Doig said time was up, Attis slotted a drop-goal from 35 metres to finish it off, 15 – 32.

Another powerful carry from Brendan Berry

It had not been a classic, Macclesfield were never quite at their best, but they had done enough against a very plucky Sandal side that were without a few of their usual starters. Acting Head Coach, Darren Lamon, was very pleased with how the boys coped when down to 14: “We managed the game well, I knew Broster would do a job, if needed, to come into the pack, and he did just that; we then had the flexibility to use the other replacements when we needed to, which worked well for us. The boys now get a well-earned Easter break before taking on Manchester again – which they are well up for”.

Seb Pemberton will almost definitely be out in two weeks time, but we could be welcoming back Skipper James Oliver. It will be interesting to see the fate of Elliot Alston, as the tackled player was reported as to have sent an email to say that there was no head-contact involved. Elsewhere in our mini-league Derby overcame Manchester at Grove Lane 32 – 38.

You have it!


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