LAST SEASON’S SCORES SETTLED

Macclesfield 38 – Northwich 17

By David Wilkinson

 

A large crowd assembled on the Stand, just before kick-off, to applaud and say goodbye to our great friend and stalwart of the Club, Jerry Howarth. Jerry had been a massive part of the Club for 7 decades: player, Chairman, benefactor, and instrumental in the move to Priory Park; his last deed being to purchase the newly erected 2nd team posts – he will be much missed.

The visit of Northwich to Priory Park was quite rightly viewed by some with trepidation. Their last visit in September 22 caught us napping. Their team was loaded with quality overseas players, and we were in disarray leaking over 50 points. If anything, this season they have introduced even more overseas players, but chatting to their Alikadoos before lunch, their feeling was that they are still trying to gel as a team. With barely a minute played, that didn’t look to be the case. Winning a penalty from a ruck, following a lineout steal by Macclesfield, they kicked into the Macc 22. Their catch and drive was well executed splintering the Macc pack, with the ecstatic Northwich Second Row touching down for a 5-point lead. It was too early to panic we had not seen yet how they would cope with Macclesfield in attack.

Brendan Berry goes through the gap to grab Macc’s first try

There was a little bit of aerial ping-pong after the restart until Macclesfield took control from a lineout deep in their half. The rolling maul made good ground, with Danny Martin firing a spiral-bomb deep into the opposition territory. Right Wing, Elijah Brisendine couldn’t cleanly field the ball, and Macclesfield pulled the trigger, fast hands sent the ball out right and then back left, when it reached Charlie Attis in the middle he delayed his pump-pass to put Brendan Berry into the gap and get Macclesfield up and running, with a simple goal for Harry Oliver to seal the 7 points.

Tom Jennings on his way for the second after Sam Brown’s cut-out pass

Northwich managed to put a few phases together until Tight-head Prop Samir Tahraoui shook the Northwich 10, like a rag doll, forcing him to knock-on. It was then Samir again that forced a penalty out of his opposite number Namibian Gabriel Sipapate for collapsing at the scrum. Another penalty put Macclesfield back into the strike zone, clean ball of the top of a lineout lit the fuse, the ball going straight to Terence Babarinsa, Attis looped him with then Harry Oliver on a dummy crash-ball, the ball found Sam Brown who had joined from the right wing, he missed out Harry Blackwell with the ball reaching Tom Jennings on the charge. The speed and slickness of the move had caused confusion in the visitors defence, giving Jennings sufficient space to arc around the defenders for a 12 – 5 lead after 18 minutes.

Harry Oliver is through the gap for Macc’s third

A period of scrappy play followed, until twice Dan Percival popped his opposite number, South African Rory Leijdeckers out of the scrum, the second time Macclesfield were awarded the penalty. The damp conditions were causing some scrappy ball with it frequently changing hands, but Macclesfield kept forcing Northwich back, but their Fly Half, New Zealand import, Liam Batt was having trouble clearing his lines, with Harry Blackwell running it back with interest; he tried a shorter kick, which they won a lineout from; but it back-fired when Macclesfield won the ball back on the 22. It was quickly fired-out to Attis who ran at the Inside Centre, when he was tackled he slipped the ball to Harry Oliver who ran through the gap that had been created, for the full 7 points and a 19 – 5 lead after 31 minutes.

Harry Blackwell always made good metres

There was another scrappy period until Blackwell ran it back from deep, when he was tackled Northwich infringed, and Sam Brown was on the ball in a flash taking the penalty quickly and sprinting into the 22, Samir took it on, and when it came out to the left it looked like the try was on, but Macclesfield were penalised on the line for being offside, which seemed exceedingly harsh. Northwich couldn’t clear there lines and when they offended on 40 metres with nothing left on the clock James Oliver opted for the posts, but the score remained the same going into the second period.

It was a good day at the office for the Macclesfield pack

Northwich got a good bit of possession in the early second half exchanges, attacking for from half way, after the Left Winger had made good metres a chip ahead and there was a race for the line, but Attis got there first. Macclesfield were shortly penalised on 30 metres for being offside at the ruck with Batt kicking to the corner. It was evident when the ball was in flight that he had over-cooked it, with the ball going dead; however the Northwich Touch Judge was still in the dugout, the Referee giving a 5-metre lineout to the visitors. They made good use of the decision with some strong mauling on the line, and after 4 phases the ball was whipped out to South African Centre Boitumelo Tsatsane who dramatically dived over the line to score, 19 – 12.

Captain James Oliver dives through the defence for the bonus point score

Macclesfield went back on the attack, and when they won a penalty on 35 metres Attis made no mistake in getting the ball close to the try-line. A powerful catch and drive looked like a certain try, but it collapsed just short and the Referee’s whistle was silent. Two phases and Terence Babarinsa wrong-footed the defender who stepped the wrong way into the Referee; and for the second week running the try was overruled as the Official deemed that he had affected play. The black and gold’s   were not off the hook, it was still penalty advantage to Macc on 5 metres. This time there was no stopping the lineout driving maul with James Oliver (sponsored by Quint) being last man up, for the bonus-point try. Harry Oliver slipped as he took the conversion, but the ball still bisected the posts for a 26 – 12 lead.

The next period of play was littered with mistakes, the worst coming from USA’s Austin Fernandez; having decided to run the ball from a penalty, his short pass to a Forward was a metre in front and was fumbled. Macclesfield had made several changes to the pack, which was now under pressure from Northwich, where at one scrum the tree-trunk limbed Sipapate lifted Percival completely off his feet. However normal services were resumed at the next scrum. Northwich were having their best spell in the game and for once speedily got the ball to Left Wing Brizendine in space, but rather than going for the corner he side-stepped four times inside; and when the ball was recycled they moved it quickly to the right for Tom Husband to cross 26 – 17.

MOTM Rhys Davies on the charge to set up the fifth try

From the restart Macclesfield won a lineout, the rolling maul making 20 metres, when the ball came out it was run wide to Harry Blackwell who made good ground; a quick ruck sent play back to the left where Rhys Davies went on the charge. He was stopped just short, but the ball flicked up into the air, and somehow Blackwell was there first to catch it and dot down, 31 – 17 with 6 minutes to play.

Northwich were now desperate to get play going again in search of a bonus-point. They won a penalty but no. 10 Liam Batt rushed his kick, and didn’t make touch; Attis returned it with interest and Tsatsane catching the ball on the line immediately took a quick throw, but the Referee judged that he had caught the ball infield awarding the lineout to Macclesfield. Batt had had a frustrating day, and it was about to get a whole lot worse; probably fuming at his own mistake he called the Referee something, which couldn’t be repeated, his ban is likely to be considerable.

Samir Tahraoui unstoppable for Macc’s final flourish

Attis kicked for touch and when the Macclesfield pack trundled forward Northwich had no option but to illegally collapse the maul. Attis kicked for touch again and it was a Macclesfield reprise for the pack, this time the maul crabbed infield until Brendan Berry broke off the back, darting on the blindside, when he was stopped short of the line Samir Tahraoui was there to barge over for his first Macclesfield score; Harry Oliver kicked the extras and it was game over.

Northwich had made a good fight of it, but as predicted did not really have the cohesion when under attack, and in the construction of some of their own attacks. Their Captain, the young Rory Leijdeekkers, thought that they made too many mistakes and knocked the ball on too frequently, that said, the conditions proved tricky at times for both teams. When Macclesfield attacked they were very good, their precision and pace with the ball was excellent; but some of the bits in between were not so good. They got-out-of-jail several times, when giving away penalties in potentially crucial positions; no doubt they will be somewhat more circumspect against the likes of Rossendale and Blackburn, who will not be so forgiving.

A smiling skipper after another fine performance

Head Coach Darren Lamon was pleased with how the team responded after going a score down in the first minutes: “We said to stick to the plan, which the boys did, and we got the scores in difficult conditions. We’re now looking forward to going to Sandbach in two weeks time, and then taking on Rossendale at Priory Park”. After Northwich’s 11-try mauling of Penrith the previous week, there was quite rightly some apprehension going into this match, so everyone was rightly pleased with the 6 try win and another 5 points that keeps Macclesfield hard on the heels of Blackburn at the top of the league, who lead on a greater positive-points difference.

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