THE FIRST FIVE POINTS ON THE ROAD

Penrith 24 – Macclesfield 33

By David Wilkinson

Penrith had gained promotion to North West One after winning promotion from North East Two; this was somewhat at odds with the RFU’s previous decision to lesson travel for players. The 100 mile journey did not deter a group of the Macclesfield faithful travelling to Cumbria to give their support. Penrith’s President Charles Graves was fearful before the match about how their team would cope defensively: “We won the league with a clean-sweep, winning all of the games by over fifty points, bar two which were a little more competitive”.

The game started nervously with both teams missing touch from penalties. A period followed where each had phases of possession, but Macclesfield’s defence looked the more solid. After 10 minutes Macclesfield stepped up a gear, raising the tempo and it was obvious that Penrith were struggling with the speed of Macclesfield ruck ball. After stretching the defence an overlap was created on the left but the ball was dropped before it could get out to two would be Macc scorers. Macclesfield were quickly pressing again with a rolling maul that made 30 metres, put when it collapsed Penrith were given possession back. The clearing kick was gathered by Harry Blackwell, who beat the first defender to find good space before feeding John O’Donnell on the Right Wing. O’Donnell showed his strength cutting inside two players, but with the line at his mercy fumbled the ball forward. Penrith were not off the hook, Macclesfield kept the pressure on winning a penalty at the scrum after good pressure from Samir Tahraoui, but when the scrum collapsed Loosehead prop Sim Meek would have to leave the field with a calf injury. The attack switched from side to side until Penrith’s defensive shape became ragged; Rhys Davies charged up field feeding Tom Morton at 10, who span out of the first tackle and skipped over for a 7 point lead with Harry Oliver converting.

Macclesfield dominate in the scrum contest

Macclesfield kept the pressure on with a scrummage that pushed their visitors ten yards back, which set up the next series of attacks that again disjointed Penrith’s defensive structure. Macclesfield committed tacklers in the middle of the pitch before whipping the ball right where Ollie Longmore lurked unopposed for the easiest of finishes; Harry Oliver converted for a 14 point lead after 30 minutes.

Ollie Longmore with the simplest of finishes

Penrith had a good spell of possession in the Macc half, but the visitors’ defence pushed them back until the ball was turned over by Terence Babrinsa’s powerful intervention, quickly followed by another Macclesfield turnover that took play deep into Penrith’s half. From the lineout Babarinsa charged, spinning through two tackles, the ball was spun out to the right, but again the scoring pass was fumbled. Penrith then infringed on their line, and the powerful Macc pack opted for the scrum. Three quick phases sent the ball spinning out to Babarinsa, who forced his way over beating three defenders; to take the score to 0 – 19 at half-time.

Captain James Oliver takes it on before the third try

The second half saw Louis Singleton replace Danny Martin at 9 and Sam Broster for Captain James Oliver with a sore back. It was more of the same straight from the kick-off with Macc piling on the pressure, they quickly made ground, and from a powerful, driving, rolling maul, Tom Burden broke free to score in the left corner for a 26-point lead.

A powerful driving maul leads to Macclesfield’s fourth try

Again Macclesfield had Penrith right back on the ropes, pinning them down in their red-zone; and when the ball was worked out to the right it looked like Babarinsa would go over again from close-range, but his threat was met by two tacklers, who arrived before the ball. The tide-turned, Penrith cleared into Macc’s half and a quickly taken penalty got them onto the front-foot. Penrith’s number 10 created the opportunity by beating the tackler and taking a strong diagonal line through the defence, with an overlap of three players to finish it off; Penrith were off the mark 5 – 26.

Tighthead Prop Samir Tahraoui gets a charge at the opposition

Macclesfield were back on the attack from the restart, putting together a series of phases that took them close, but the last pass out to the wing didn’t find the man. Penrith looked a different team with the ball-in-hand; they broke from a ruck on the blind side, with two runners taking it into Macc’s 22 until it was fumbled. When they won it back it was time to have another go; their number 10, who had previously demonstrated his classy side-step did it again, but this time finishing himself from 30 metres out, for a 12 – 26 score-line.

Terence Babarinsa setting up another of his trademark spins

The phrase ‘a lot of chances went begging’ was never more apt than in this contest; a series of attacking phases again took play into the 22. Babarinsa again used his strength and determination taking the ball to within 5, but the ball went forward in the final play. Macclesfield applied the pressure at the scrum, which was sufficient to force a knock-on behind the line. When Macc got their chance again from 5 metres out they were determined, setting up a maul after the scrum with Matt Harrison getting Macclesfield’s final try, 12 – 33.

Macclesfield go over for their final try

Penrith scored another individual try from 30 metres out, and again at the final whistle to give them a losing bonus point, which will have pleased them given the earlier score. There were some excellent performances by Macclesfield players, all the debutants played very well; John O’Donnell looked very sharp on the wing until leaving the field with a pulled hamstring, and Samir Tahraoui made his presence felt. Terence Babarinsa had probably his best game for Macclesfield, in attack, defence and at the turnover, but the Alikadoos gave their MOTM to Matt Harrison for his all-round performance.

Head Coach Darren Lamond was pleased with the performance: “The boys did well for the first game of the season, although the lads were a bit disappointed that they didn’t stay in control until the end; it will be one of the work-ons this week. Penrith were pumped for the match, but we shut them down well in the first half, one of the quick recaps after the game was sharpening our finishing”. Daz commented on the fact that there were lots of new combinations in the team, which they will work on and get better in the coming weeks. With regard to Wirral next week, injuries to players will mean changes: “There were some disappointed players this week they will be raring to go on Saturday at Wirral. The games have been pretty close in the past, Wirral are very good at targeting players; but the boys will want to show Wirral what they have”.

3.00 pm kick-off at Wirral, followed by Stockport at home on the 16th, preceded by the Past Players Lunch.

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