CHAMPIONS!

Pappa Johns Cup Final

Macclesfield 40 – Maidenhead 26

By David Wilkinson

It was to be a fitting climax to the end of a very satisfying season; the poor start was a very distant memory, with the players performing at the top of their game, playing rugby that is a joy to watch. The day started with a hearty breakfast at the Club, arriving at Sixways stadium in time to see Wirral take on Launceston in the Shield Final. The game started with the Cornishmen looking imperious in the set scrum, quickly going two scores up, at this stage it looked like a walk-over for Launceston, but our Cheshire friends fought back with some outstanding open play gradually building a good lead. The Cornishmen fought back, but Wirral hung on to bring the first piece of silverware back to Cheshire with a 55 – 45 win.

Danny Martin fires the ball out for Terence Babarinsa to get the first try

The travelling Macclesfield faithful gathered in the Stand to cheer on the boys in blue, and they wouldn’t have long to wait. Two phases following the kick-off, and Charlie Attis launched a towering downfield kick that sent Sam Brown off-on-the-heels of Maidenhead’s flying Left wing. It was an important test for Sam, and he came out of it with flying colours. They went stride-for-stride, it was a perfect kick that forced the Maidenhead winger to gather the ball, as he did so Sam Brown scragged him, and then intercepted the pass to a supporting player. The cavalry arrived in time to recycle the ball, with two huge passes, first from Danny Martin, and then Attis to Terence Babarinsa who danced around the defence while it was at sixes-and-sevens, Macclesfield were 5 points to the good after barely a minute had been played, the sound system blasted out Wilkey’s “Whaa-Hoo” music that got the early celebrations swinging. While Maidenhead had a bit of an advantage, playing their home games on a 4G surface, Attis had demonstrated, in three previous games that he knew how to control the ball on the artificial pitch, and there was more to come.

Terence Babarinsa going in for the first try

It didn’t take long for the Berkshire boys to respond, they worked their way deep into the Macc half attacking from a lineout on the right, when the ball came back to the left, there appeared to be no real threat, but Scrum Half Prince spotted a gap next to the ruck, he somehow wriggled between two Macclesfield tacklers, who appeared to be going more for the ball than the player; he was over, and put Maidenhead in front with the converted score.

Captain James Oliver is over for the second

The Macclesfield response was immediate, a series of quick-fire attacks sent Macc into the opposition half, Attis spotted a gap and shimmied through it, the play going left and right, a big pass out to the left wing saw Harry Oliver make good ground before another attack to the right, and when the ball came back to the left Captain James Oliver met it at speed to go over; it was a very clinical piece of rugby to regain the lead 10 – 7 after 12 minutes.

Harry Oliver bursts through the tacklers in the second half

Maidenhead got a scrum 30 metres out on the left and spun the ball out to the right, their Full Back joined the line and when the ball reached him he took an inside line, that beat the first defender and wrong footed the rest as he ran diagonally to go over, between the posts for a 10 – 14 lead on 16 minutes.

James Oliver takes the lineout to set up an attack

Terence Babarinsa left the field with a pulled ham-string, and was replaced at 12 by Will Davies. Maidenhead had a protracted period of possession, where their simple hard running game was paying dividends; it was somewhat unstructured but quick and effective. Macclesfield held out and won a scrum 10 metres from their line; James Oliver picked from the base making 15 metres, from there Macclesfield were as clinical as their previous try, with crisp recycling, five phases took them into the red-zone and from there Brendan Berry charged, beating the first tackler and taking the second over the line to regain the lead 17 – 14.

Brendan Berry is over for the third try

Macclesfield’s solid defence after the restart forced a knock-on, and Macclesfield attacked from the scrum, Sam Brown joined the line at pace and took play into the Maidenhead half, where they were awarded a penalty at the ruck. The game so far had been a very much nip-and-tuck affair with the teams being evenly matched, every point was going to matter, and Attis called for the kicking-tee. At about 50 metres, with the angle, it was just within Charlie’s range, and Macc’s lead was increased to 20 – 14 on 33 minutes.

The scrum wheels before Will Davies gets the fourth try

Maidenhead tried to put an attack together around halfway but it was stuttering, Danny Martin sprinted into the defensive line with an opportunity of an interception, which panicked the pass and Macc won the ball back, when it reached Attis he spotted some space deep on the right and chipped the ball to pitch 15 metres out. Once again Sam Brown was right on the heels of their speedy left wing who could do nothing other than gather the ball infield, and at full pace he was over the dead ball line before he could stop, with a 5 metre scrum awarded to Macclesfield. Under pressure, the scrum wheeled to the left, which opened the play, with Danny Martin passing directly to Will Davies at 12 who sided stepped his opposite number on the inside and crashed through the 9 and 10 to score, 25 – 14 after 40 minutes. Macclesfield had deserved their first-half lead, with four well-worked tries.

Charlie Attis sinks his second penalty and a 28 – 14 lead

After the restart the Macclesfield defence pinned Maidenhead back, deep in their half, were they  were reluctant to kick, and lose possession, but eventually they had little alternative, and Macclesfield would have a lineout  on 35 metres. When the ball came to the right Attis looped and was hit with a no-arms late-tackle by the Maidenhead number 4, who took an enforced ten-minute break, the first part of which was watching his miscreant behaviour being further punished, 28 – 14 after the penalty kick.

The game was stopped on the Macclesfield 22 due to an injury, and Macclesfield took the opportunity to bring on Phil Laing at 7 for Sam Broster and Elliot Alston for Tom Burden at 6. Maidenhead won the ball back, and although they were now playing with a player short in the backline, they were making ground, and winning a penalty kick, 10 metres out. Scrum followed lineout and when the ball eventually reached the other side of the field, a forward made a half-break, that was sufficient to isolate Sam Brown and give their Left Wing the chance to dab down, reducing the arrears to 28 – 19.

It was soon to get worse, Maidenhead attacked from a scrum on halfway on the right; their Right Wing joined the line, and from what looked like a solid defensive situation, he rode and wriggled through the tackle, taking a similar diagonal line as their second try, it was game back on, 28 – 26 after 58 minutes.

Lloyd Smith Coates goes over for Macclesfield’s 5th try

The tables had turned, and it was now going all the way of the Berkshire boys winning penalties and keeping possession, but eventually Macclesfield got a scrum to attack from 60 metres out. I had watched the play on Thursday evening, a feint to pass from Attis to 12, with Harry Oliver taking the crash ball on an angled line; his pace took him to their 5 metre line where the final pass to Phil Laing was intercepted and dabbed down over the line. The tide had been stemmed but with a 5 metre scrum the outcome for Maidenhead was ominous. James Oliver picked from the base slipping the ball to Lloyd Smith-Coates, who crashed over, 33 – 26 after 63 minutes.

Sam Brown clinches it finishing off the sixth try

Macclesfield were now relentless, each carry making good yards, twice Brendan Berry nearly got over, and when Dan Martin was held up over the line, the referee called it back for a previous infringement. Macclesfield chose to scrummage, the Captain picked from the base and went blind, although stopped just short, the ball was quickly whipped back to the left, going through several hands before a long pass from Attis found Harry Oliver, who carefully shipped it to Harry Blackwell and the killer pass to Sam Brown and the sixth try; Attis converted for the icing on the cake, 40 – 26 with just 7 minutes to play.

With two scores up, Macclesfield had emptied the bench for the final period of the game, which turned into a much longer period of play than anticipated. Maidenhead threw the kitchen sink at Macclesfield and set up camp in the 22, but they couldn’t cross the white-wash again. Eventually the Macc Lads pounced onto a loose ball and Attis hoofed it into the Stand to the roars of the travelling Macclesfield faithful. The Fat Lady had indeed sung for the last time, this season, it was all over with the silverware coming back to Macclesfield.

Very worthy winners with big smiles

Great shifts from Harry and James Oliver to bring more silverware back to Macclesfield

Maidenhead had put up one hell of a fight, but Macclesfield were always a bit too strong for them on the day, playing their usual well structured game with some clinical finishing. There had been some excellent individual performances, Sam Brown contained their speedy winger as well as his own major impacts to the game, Rhys Davies put in some thumping tackles, Harry and James Oliver were everywhere scoring and making tries, Charlie Attis controlled the game, and according to the Commentator had had a superb performance, but the MOTM went to Brendan Berry for his outstanding impact throughout the eighty minutes.

Pappa Johns Cup Plate Champions

Acting Head Coach, Darren Lamon, was rightly delighted: “The boys have trained hard for this, they were well prepared and when the game got tight at 28 – 26, they knew how to close the game out. Maidenhead had been difficult to play against; they were brave and difficult to tackle, they rode tackles well and didn’t give in. We soaked up the pressure in the second half, and when we got our hands on the ball again the boys were clinical in their determination to seal the game. We won’t meet again until the Club Ball, and we’ll then look to pre-season, which will be all about honing our game rather than changing anything”. There will be more news to follow next week about the squad’s structure for next season.

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