Penrith v Macclesfield Preview

By David Wilkinson

 

The new season is finally upon us, with a long trip up to Cumbria, to face newly promoted Penrith. But plenty has happened in the 3 months that have passed since Macclesfield’s barnstorming end to the season. For once, I personally missed pre season, my own personal sporting challenge took me elsewhere, followed by family holidays, until I looked in on a training session this week. Head Coach Darren Lamond talked me through what’s been happening: “The lads wanted to come back early, but they needed a good rest after the Cup-run into May. We started on the 1st of July with fitness testing before moving straight into ball-in-play, working on how we are going to play; this progressed into knowing the Coaches in their game-time strategies (besides Darren, Tommy Taylor assists him; with Forwards Player Coach Rhys Davies; and returning to the Club Ollie Longmore, Forwards Player Coach; and also returning to the Club, Backs Player Coach Tom Morton). We then took a week off before block 2; this placed more emphasis on tactical play, specific plays, and navigating around the pitch. This gave us the opportunity to have a closer look at our new signings”.

Fine honing the lineout for Saturday

Darren told me that there was a move away from what had happened in previous close-seasons, where we had played teams of a higher level and got injuries before the season had even started. Instead they went over to Chester for what was, in essence, a dual training session, but with competitive play situations. They then travelled to newly promoted Pontefract, who had won their league at a canter. Macclesfield were without the core of their squad (on holiday), but it gave an opportunity to look at a number of potential players and some of the new signings. Even though the Pontefract pack won most of the possession Macclesfield were able to score 5 tries to 1 with the little ball that they had. “No other teams wanted to come to Priory Park, so we had an internal match”; Darren told me that it gave another opportunity to look at some of the new signings that include a full front row of Simeon Meek, Ollie Longmore and Samir Tahraoui.  Simeon comes back to Macc from Sheffield Tigers along with powerhouse Kieran Wain and Centre Ollie Church; with Longmore and Tahraoui joining from Sale FC along with John O’Donnell, a back three player, who has had spells with the Sharks and Wigan. Hooker Alex Brooks signs from Sedgeley Park, and we welcome the return of Matt Harrison and Josh Degroot; and it’s great to now have two 10s, particularly at training”. Not all are currently available for selection, but it does put the squad in rude health, with many positions becoming very competitive.

 

Game plays at Tuesday night’s training

Talking to Darren about the season ahead and Saturday’s challenge, he had this to say: “We need to get the language right for the season”. He told me that last season they had had a series of progressive targets, that hadn’t always worked out; “I want us to start by trying to be the most competitive we have been, away from home, for the past 10 years; and doing it by playing a unique, aggressive, territorial game. We want to play as a top 3 team; we will then review, and set our sights at the top”. He believes that Saturday’s Cumbrian contest will be a big physical challenge on a fast 4G track along with a decent local crowd. The boys should go into the game confident to play on the artificial pitch after last season’s successes on 4G, and if they can continue to play how they finished last season they should be difficult to beat. Darren thinks that our end of season successes will mark us as the scalp to take, with from what we have heard a number of the teams in NW1 bolstering their squads. It promises to be a fantastic season of highly competitive rugby. If you can’t make it to Penrith, next week is a little closer to home, as we travel to Wirral for a league and Cheshire Cup double-header.

The team for Penrith, is: 1.Simeon Meek, 2.Brendan Berry, 3.Samir Tahraoui, 4.Rhys Davies, 5.Harry Harding, 6.Tom Burden, 7.Matt Harrison, 8.James Oliver Captain, 9.Dan Martin, 10.Tom Morton, 11.Tom Jennings, 12.Terence Babarinsa, 13.Harry Oliver, 14. John O’Donnell, 15.Harry Blackwell, 16.Ollie Longmore, 17.Sam Broster, 18.Louis Singleton.

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