Wirral 32 – Macclesfield 48
By David Wilkinson
The Wirral ground was looking resplendently green on arrival, glistening in the Indian summer sun, a sight rarely seen before by the Macclesfield faithful. It would be Tommy Taylor’s first game in charge, in the absence of Head Coach Darren Lamond, indeed it would be the first game in charge of any team, at the start of his coaching career; that he hopes to continue with when he finally finishes his professional playing career. The game started with a penalty for Macclesfield, taking play deep into the hosts half. From the lineout the attack flashed across-field with Harry Oliver flinging a long pass out to Sam Brown on the Right Wing, who was forced into touch by two defenders on the try-line; it was a sign of things to come.
Winning the ball at the back of the lineout
Wirral cleared their line to 40 metres, before getting a free gift from Macclesfield at the lineout; they took advantage of it taking play into the Macc 22. Macclesfield were under pressure at the scrum, being penalised when it wheeled, which prompted Wirral to scrummage again on the 5 metre line. A well worked move between the 8 and 9, on the blindside of the scrum, gave their 14 sufficient space to squeeze over; the kick was converted for an early 7 point lead.
From the restart Wirral cleared with a huge kick taking play deep back into Macclesfield’s 22. Wirral were strong again at the scrum forcing Macc into the red-zone, a series of well controlled rucks got them to the line, where they were patient, with 8 ruck phases before getting over for a 12 point lead.
Matt Harrison scores Macclesfield’s first try
Matt Harrison caught the ball from the restart and Macc were back on the attack. A penalty from the next phase got them a lineout at 15 metres, where they launched another attack to the right, Wirral were penalised again and Macc were on the 5 metre line. The lineout was quickly formed into a rolling maul with Matt Harrison breaking off, to dive over, and taking the score to 12 – 7, after Harry Oliver converted. A period of aerial ping-pong followed with Macclesfield winning the rally and ultimately a kickable penalty, bringing the score to 12 – 10 after 24 minutes; however this was nullified from the restart with a 30 metre penalty to make it 15 – 10.
Matt Harrison scores his second after good work in the backs
Macclesfield attacked from the restart but when Harry Harding went on another charge the ball was dislodged, and the Macc line was rounded by their Left Wing, who put in an excellent grubber kick that stayed in play. The Macc cover however was just quick enough to save the day. Terence Babarinsa came on for Sam Broster and was immediately in the action, his jack-in-the-box jinking causing Wirral to infringe. Macc attacked again off the top of the penalty lineout; fast hands got the ball quickly to Tom Jennings on the left wing who got up a head-of-steam beating his opposite number on the inside. He was stopped just short but a super-fast ruck saw Matt Harrison wrong-footing the defence to grab his brace, with Harry Oliver slotting it through the posts for a 15 – 17 lead after 31 minutes. It was a short-lived lead with the Wirral 12 striking another long-range penalty from 39 metres after a high tackle. Harry Oliver was equally gifted a similar shot at goal, straight from the restart, the half finished with Macc on top 18 – 20.
Terence Babarinsa on the crash-ball
Macclesfield started the second half back on the attack, with a very well timed crash ball to Babarinsa, Oliver took the ball on, breaking the first tackle but the final pass drifted forward. Wirral infringed at the scrum and Macclesfield pounced taking a quick free-kick, switching the play right to left, Tom Burden drove on feeding Babarinsa who span over the try-line to increase the lead by 7.
Rhys Davies bursting the tackle
One of the Wirral Second Rows tried to soften Babarinsa up by taking him out of the ball, but the referee spotted his skulduggery sending him to the sidelines for ten minutes. Macc attacked again with some excellent handling, but again the final pass drifted forward. Wirral relieved some pressure with a kick deep into Macclesfield’s half, but it was short-lived. The Macclesfield backs kept the ball alive, running from 5 metres out, probing for little gaps, first left then right, forwards and backs combining 10 passes, in two phases of play; Oliver burst threw two tacklers to take the ball into the Wirral half before passing to who else but Matt Harrison who charged in from 40 metres for his hat-trick and an 18 – 34 lead.
Sam Brown stopped just short
Wirral put some good phases together taking play deep into Macc’s half and when the ball was worked to their Right Wing, it looked like he would score after a deft chip took him over the line, but he fumbled the ball as he tried to score. Wirral had another attack but were turned over and Macclesfield took play back into Wirral territory. A strong scrum from a rearranged pack set up another attack, with Attis throwing out a trademark wide pass to Sam Brown; it took three to stop him on the line but a quick ruck got the ball into Harry Harding’s hands for the score; Macclesfield led 18 – 41 with 19 minutes remaining.
Charlie Attis sets off with space in front of him
Terence Babarinsa on the charge
Wirral pressed hard again several quick phases took them close, but their lively Left Wing fluffed his lines in front of the posts. But they got another chance in the Macc 22, turning a ball over at the ruck; their very experienced Inside Centre cut inside, and with his opposite number still being at the bottom of the ruck, he had a clear run to the line and 7 points pulled back. Wirral were now hunting the bonus point and attacked from deep, but an excellent tackle and turnover by Oliver stopped them in their tracks, and within a minute Oliver had a chance to further advance the score, but for once it slid past the post.
Charlie Attis scores the final try after his interception
Wirral attacked from a scrum in their half; their Centres, with 532 appearances between them, combined well breaking a tackle and looping round to score in the corner for a well executed try, which was duly converted from the touchline, 32 – 41. With little left on the clock Wirral chose to run everything, even though they were deep in their own half; but Macclesfield’s well structured defence forced them back until they infringed. Macclesfield went for the corner for a final score, but a fumble close to the line gave Wirral the scrum, they had little option other than to run it out, and Attis spotted the pass, intercepting it, to go under the posts to make it a 32 – 48 game.
Captain Harry Oliver, and happy away from home winners
Although Macclesfield had gone down by two scores in the first 10 minutes, after that they had a good control of the game, and always looked potent in attack; they could have scored a few more tries, but then so could Wirral. The return fixture on December the 9th will be the Club Christmas Lunch, and a double-header for the Cheshire Cup, it should be a great day and contest. Post match, Tommy Taylor was delighted with the result, he had helped to ensure another five-pointer and put Macclesfield into the third place spot. Tommy had used the replacements well and rotated the players during the game to good effect; Daz will be happy on his return this week. Chatting after the game it seemed that we might already be in a three-horse race for the title, where five-pointers become a weekly necessity, but there is a long way to go yet, with Stockport next. Even though Matt Harrison had scored a hat-trick of tries, the players’ pick for MOTM went to Harry Blackwell, who was as quick downing his pint against the Wirral man, as he was on the pitch.
Next week the contest against our old foes should be a hum-dinger, Stockport turned over newly promoted Penrith on Saturday and will be champing at the bit to have a go at Macc again. Last season, the contests were even in the league, both winning away from home, but Macclesfield won the big one beating Port in the semi final of The Pappa Johns Cup at Stockport 15 – 48. The contest will be preceded by an ex players’ lunch with a big vocal crowd expected in the Stand; kick-off 3.00pm.