Pappa Johns Community Cup, Plate Semi-Final

Stockport 15 – Macclesfield 48

By David Wilkinson

The prospect was mouth-watering, two teams at the top of their game, with local rivalry to add a touch of extra spice. Both came through their games last week in confident mood; Macclesfield was dominant against Derby, and never looked like losing; equally Stockport had a couple of blips early on against Cleckheaton, but they were then clinical to seal a big win. There was nothing between the sides in league competition, each winning away, in the last play of the games; with Macclesfield gaining one more win in the league, finishing one place higher. Although Stockport had home advantage, on paper, recent results would suggest otherwise, and so it turned out to be.

James Cross trundles in for the first try off Stockport’s lineout fumble

Macclesfield had the slope, and put Stockport immediately under pressure following the kick-off, winning a penalty on 30 metres, Charlie Attis slotting the early opportunity. Macclesfield kept the pressure on with Attis forcing Stockport back into their 22 with a long-range kick. It would be the second gift from Stockport at the following lineout; the ball was fumbled off several hands with the Scrum Half missing it. James Cross scuttled around the back of the lineout, getting to the ball first, and although the home pack was on his tail, he made it to the line to give Macclesfield an 8-point lead after 8 minutes.

Solid start at the scrum for Macclesfield

It was still all Macclesfield after the restart, Stockport couldn’t get a toe-hold on the game, and Macclesfield forced them back into their 22 on the left again. A few phases followed before the ball came out to the right, with Harry Oliver getting over for his first try; Attis getting the conversion off the left post for a 15 point lead after 15 minutes.

Harry Blackwell battling for the ball

It had been an excellent start for Macclesfield, they had been under no real pressure from Stockport, but what followed would be a sustained attack on the Macclesfield line. The red and green team put a series of attacking phases together, working their way into the top left corner. The lineout would set-up a driving maul, traditionally a potent weapon for Stockport, but Macclesfield defended it well; that said they were trapped in the corner, twice giving away penalties. The visitors could not relieve the pressure, and Stockport was over, but the pass was forward and Macclesfield had escaped; it would have been demoralising for the Stockport players, and it would get worse. There was no hesitation in renewing the Macc attack, the ball was shifted to the right, eventually reaching Sam Brown, who was tackled well; the ball was recycled back to the left with Harry Oliver making good ground, Harry Blackwell was in support to force his way over, for a 20 point lead after 20 minutes.

From the restart Stockport came back at Macclesfield with a sustained effort in the middle of the pitch; they resorted to their pick-and-go game that has served them well in other contests, but Macclesfield’s defence had been very good all season. It wasn’t working for Stockport, as much as they tried, there was no go, in their pick-and-go; Stockport were being double tackled and gaining no ground whatsoever. Eventually the ball was knocked-on, and Macclesfield were back in control. It was a pivotal moment in the game, Stockport had held on to the ball, determined to keep possession but it hadn’t worked.

Harry Oliver rounds the defence to score under the posts

With ball-in-hand Macclesfield looked irresistible; they worked the ball down the left again, the Oliver twins were on fire, James and Harry inter-passing, with Harry rounding the last of the defence to score between the posts for a 27-point lead. Macclesfield would see out the rest of the half with no further scores. It had been a brilliant start for the visitors in a game that had been billed to be very close – it was far from it, after 40 minutes.

That’s Macclesfield’s place in the final secured with Harry Oliver’s hat-trick

Stockport started the second half with a determined effort to get into attacking territory, which had only happened once in the first half; they succeeded down the left flank, winning a couple of penalties and were rewarded with a five point score, although there deficit would soon be increased. Macclesfield had not lost any of their confidence to attack from deep, it is something that they have done throughout the season, when opportunities arise. Babarinsa fed the ball to Harry Oliver on the Macc 22 and Harry was off, his initial pace taking him away from the Macc support players, but no matter, he would beat four players as he side-stepped and weaved his way up-field. With 22 metres to go there was just one player to beat, a glance would show that the support were too far behind to pass to, so soldier on! The lactic acid was probably screaming in Harry’s legs, but his power, even after such a sprint, was sufficient to break-through the last tackle for his hat-trick and a 5 – 34 lead.

Top performance by Terence Babarinsa, getting the 5th try

Stockport took advantage from Macclesfield, probably taking their foot of the gas, to get another try in the left corner to bring the scores to 10 – 34. But Macclesfield were far from done scoring, they set up a play 40 metres out, and after a charge from Harry Harding, it was tipped on to Rhys Davies who fed the charging Brendan Berry, who linked with Terence Babarinsa, who is playing the best rugby of his season, Terence burst through the last of the defence, to provide an easy kick for Attis and an unassailable lead of 10 – 41.

There was more to come, Harry Oliver intercepted a ball deep in the Macclesfield half and fed to Tom Jennings to sprint 40 metres before being challenged, Tom passed inside to the left to the supporting Sam Brown, who used his pace to get on the score-sheet by rounding the defence, for the seventh try, 10 – 48.

Tom Jennings setting up yet another Macc try

Referee Jack Moorhouse had had a good game, and he held no-truck with Macclesfield in the dying minutes reducing the blues to 13 players, that Stockport capitalised on to score a final try 15 – 48. The match had been a contest, but Macclesfield always seemed to be well in control, and it was testament to how the team has developed through the season.

Sam Brown finishes a fantastic move for a seven-pointer

Acting Head Coach, Darren Lamon, was very pleased with how the boys had brought the training ground strategy to the game: “We talked about getting excited about all parts of the game, enjoying the moments and performing well, in defence, in the rucks, and turn-overs; do all those parts well and our attack will finish; and the attack was very quick, not just in individual play but the support, we forced gaps to appear and took advantage of them. The boys had the target of the Cup Final as the aim of their season, months ago, and we are now there. It will be a very busy week of preparation; we have a fit side, full of confidence to take on the challenge”.

Maidenhead will be a tough challenge, they are an aggressive team that knows how to score points, but in Macclesfield, they will face a team that has scored 4 tries and more for the last 13 matches, we will take some beating. Kick-off is 5pm on Saturday at Sixways, Worcester, please try to get there and support the team and Macclesfield in this National Cup competition. These are the boys that won us through the semi-final:  1 Dan Percival, 2 Brendan Berry VC, 3 James Cross, 4 Rhys Davies, 5 Harry Harding, 6 Sam Broster, 7 James Oliver C, 8 Tom Burden, 9 Dan Martin, 10 Charlie Attis, 11 Sam Adu, 12 Terence Babarinsa, 13 Harry Oliver, 14 Sam Brown, 15 Harry Blackwell, 16 Marcus Pyle, 17 Max Dempsey, 18. Louis Singleton, 19 Tom Leicester, 20 Will Davies, 21 Tom Jennings, 22 Tom Blackwell.



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