By David Wilkinson
Saturday’s contest is in essence now a Quarter Final, as by my reckoning only Derby or Macclesfield can now win the group. Derby has 10 points, Macclesfield 7, Manchester 6 and Sandal 2. We heard yesterday that Sandal has conceded their game against Manchester with Manchester being awarded a 5-point win, putting them on 11 points; if they are not awarded anything in the points-for column, they cannot win the group. Looking at how the RFU have handled other walk-overs this would seem to be the case, with Manchester finishing on 11 points and a minus 1 points difference; on that basis any win would see Macclesfield going through to the Semi-Final, which is likely to be against Stockport.
Derby will certainly pose a threat playing at home on their 4G playing surface; Finley, their flying Left Wing, is something of a points-machine for them. Macclesfield will have done their homework and would hope to be more than competitive in the set pieces, and their backline is full of quality players that will not be fearful of the artificial pitch. According to Acting Head Coach, Darren Lamon, stern words were issued at the start of last night’s training session, presumably addressing the below par performance against Manchester, which had far too many ‘unforced errors’: “Everyone is excited about the game on Saturday, it’s where we want to be challenging for more silverware. There are a few changes in the playing squad, Phil Laing comes back into the back-row, Terence Babarinsa moves back to 12, Will Davies to 14 and Harry Blackwell to 15. Sam Brown is on the bench with Tom Jennings and Marcus Pyle”. Darren went on to say that 12 to 15 can play in a variety of positions, and that some have a brief to slot in where and when: “I will certainly be making changes, throughout the game, and using the bench. It’s a shame about Lloydy and Seb’s injuries and Elliot’s card, but hopefully they’ll get another chance”.
The learning from playing on artificial pitches is that the home team gains a physical advantage lasting the 80 minutes, and that managing your 15 to sustain the strain of the 4G surface, is a strategy in itself.
The game kicks-off at 3.00 pm, please try and make the car journey to Derby, the boys will really welcome the support of the Priory Park faithful, as they bid for their second piece of silverware. The team is: 1 Dan Percival, 2 Brendan Berry VC, 3 James Cross, 4 Rhys Davies, 5 Harry Harding, 6 Sam Broster, 7 Phil Laing, 8 James Oliver Captain, 9 Dan Martin, 10 Charlie Attis, 11 Sam Adu, 12 Terence Babarinsa, 13 Harry Oliver, 14 Will Davies, 15 Harry Blackwell, 16 Marcus Pyle, 17 Tom Jennings 18. Sam Brown.