Macclesfield 36 – Rossendale 60

By David Wilkinson

 

This would be the first big test for unbeaten Macclesfield, against the league’s super-stars. With the recruitment of ex Sale Sharks’ and Scottish International, Byron McGuigan Rossendale now have a Player/Coach with real influence, on and off the pitch; add Denny Solomona to the mix and you have a brace of international players that are of a completely different class, with a supporting act of a further four overseas recruits. Whilst Macclesfield were sitting in 2nd the Lancashire side’s only loss had come by way of a one-point defeat by league leaders Blackburn. Leading up to the encounter at Priory Park, Rossendale had averaged 58 points per game and Macclesfield 39, so the chances were of several scores. Macclesfield’s challenge wasn’t aided by four of their pack missing on the day, but they did have four returning to the team: Josh Degroot, Simeon Meek, John O’Donnell and Sam Adu.

Rossendale’s 10, Lewis Allen, has a cultured boot, which immediately put Macclesfield under pressure. Rossendale’s maul from a lineout made good ground, and when the ball was spun-out Denny Solomona went on a dummy crash-ball. The move turned the Macc defence inwards, and Allen chipped to Byron McGuigan at pace, who easily brushed past the last defender for a 7-point lead after barely 2 minutes.

Macclesfield made good ground after the restart, which led to a Charlie Attis chip but Solomona got there first calling for a mark. Rossendale opted for a scrum, which worked for them as when the ball was fed out, Allen made a big clearance. At the first scrum for Macclesfield Meek was strong, winning a penalty over his opposite number, but the visitors stole the ball at the lineout, then winning a penalty and clearing deep. With the ball in Macclesfield’s half the visitors went through the phases, there didn’t appear to be much of a threat until Kiwi import John Tuia broke a tackle and was behind the defence; with two to beat near the line he threw it back inside for Scrum Half Callum Whelan to go over under the posts, 0 – 14 after 16 minutes.

James Oliver was solid at the lineout throughout the contest

From the restart it seemed for the second time, that Tom Jennings had been taken-out with a late tackle after his clearance kick, but the Referee wasn’t interested. Macc would however win a penalty at the ensuing ruck. Attis kicked to the left corner and the lineout drive was over the line in a flash, with Phil Laing getting up with the ball, 5 – 14.

A deep restart from Allen got Rossendale back on the attack, they went from right to left, but this time when Tuia charged he was stopped in his tracks. The ball was recycled back to the right, with Allen standing deep, Macclesfield raced up, but the line was ragged, McGuigan joined the line but the ball was spun out to their try-machine Sam Lothion on the right wing, he glided around his opposite number before spinning out of the next tackle and racing to the line, 5 – 21.

Captain James Oliver bursting through tackles

Macclesfield won a penalty on 40 metres with Attis finding touch 15 metres out, another penalty put Macc on the 5 metre line. After several phases Harding crashed over but was held up, but the Referee was playing advantage, another attack and it looked like Macclesfield were over but the visitors had infringed again, and their 9 was sent to the bin. Macclesfield chose to scrum, but it back-fired when Macclesfield were penalised in the front row. It was a butchered opportunity, and after another big clearance Macclesfield were back in defence. They held firm but the referee was playing advantage, and when play eventually stopped Allen took the points 5 – 24.

Macclesfield put some good phases together and it looked like they had worked an overlap on the left, but the ball was put down and Rossendale took advantage; it looked like the visitors would go in again but a forward pass gave a scrum to Macclesfield. Hungarian international Roland Marki applied the pressure at the scrum winning another kickable penalty for Allen, 5 – 27.

John O’Donnell gets over for Macclesfield’s 2nd try

Macclesfield won the ball back at the restart, and three phases took them to the 22, McGuigan tried to cut-out Attis’s lobbed pass but the ball escaped him and fast hands got the ball to John O’Donnell who raced in for the score, and his first for Macclesfield. McGuigan’s response to the Macc players was somewhat competitive, 10 – 27.

Rossendale won the ball back and were straight on the attack, Solomona, Marki and Kiwi Charlie Murray all made good metres with the ball. Murray again made good metres and from a ruck close to the line McGuigan was alive to the opportunity with only Danny Martin in defence, he picked-up at the base and was over. It was 10 – 34 at half time, and a difficult hill for the Macc lads to climb in the second half.

MOTM Brendan Berry crashes through for Macclesfield’s 3rd try

Macclesfield were quick to respond in the second half, from a lineout on 60 metres Attis fired a big up-and-under, that James Oliver judged perfectly and was unchallenged. The attack went first to the right, and when it came back left Attis delayed his pass for Brendan Berry to take it on the burst, crashing through the defence to score, 15 – 34.

Rossendale piled on the pressure after the restart, going through several phases, and winning a penalty 22 metres out. From a kick to the left-hand corner they attacked through the hands, a surge by Marki attracted some of the backs, but the ball was quickly recycled to reveal an overlap on the right for Kiwi Zac Stephens to score, 15 – 39.

From the restart Allen put in another monster kick back deep into the Macclesfield half, when the ball was run back Rossendale turned it over at the ruck. Edge-Spedding appeared to create a whole at the ruck with a late clearout that left a gap for Murray to charge through, and when he was stopped it was Edge-Spedding on-hand to take the scoring pass. It was either well worked or fortunate or both, 15 – 46.

Macclesfield drives for the line, for Simeon Meek’s score

Macclesfield won the ball back at the restart, and then a penalty on the 22, Attis kicked to the right corner and the catch-and-drive was straightforward for Simeon Meek to get over; Harry Oliver converted from wide out to make it 22 – 46.

Twice Rossendale’s lineout failed to function which was relieving the pressure on Macclesfield who then worked their way, via a penalty, to another catch-and-drive opportunity; but this time the visitor’s forwards disrupted the drive and won a scrum. Macclesfield had made several changes to the pack including Josh Degroot coming into the second row; Rossendale got the pressure on again through Marki, who was hardly pushing straight, but they won the penalty. Allen got the ball to halfway and the ball was spun out from the lineout straight to Denny Solomona, who charged through the defence, it was a glimpse of Solomona in his pomp, his pace took him away and when stopped, slipped the ball out of the back door to Allen for his goal, 22 – 53.

Macclesfield gets the penalty but no try for Danny Martin – this time!

Macclesfield won the ball back at the restart, and put in a determined attack; 3 times Rossendale infringed with the Referee playing advantage, but on the third occasion a high-tackle in front of the posts brought out the yellow card, many on the Stand thought that it should have been a penalty-try. Macc went for their tried and trusted route, but when the maul was stopped Attis chipped to the left corner; it looked like Terence Babarinsa had scored, but by the time the Referee got there he determined the ball to be held-up. It was another score gone begging. From the drop-out Macclesfield run it back to the 22, Rossendale infringed again, and this time when Danny Martin tapped quickly the Referee didn’t call him back, he ducked under the first tackle and sprinted to the line, 29 – 53.

Sam Adu stopped inches short of the try-line

Allen went long at the restart to Sam Adu, now at Full Back, who caught and cleared well to halfway. Following the lineout Rossendale infringed at the ruck and Macc were back on attack. The ball went out to the left from the lineout, and after some strong carries came back to the right, with a deliberate knock-on stopping the possible scoring pass, it brought another yellow card out of the Referee’s pocket and Rossendale were down to 13. A catch and drive from close-quarters put Captain James Oliver over for their 6th try, 36 – 53.

John O’Donnell’s chip-and-chase almost leads to a try

Rossendale were now desperate to keep Macclesfield in their own half, but the Macc lads were equally desperate to get back in attack, and prepared to run it from deep. Eventually they worked an overlap on the right, but the experienced John O’Donnell couldn’t hold on to it and the chance disappeared. As soon as Macclesfield got their hands on the ball again it was the same tactic, but this time O’Donnell showed strength and pace to get away and when he retrieved his kick ahead it looked like a certain try, but the pass went into the hands of Tuia instead of Danny Martin. Rossendale couldn’t relieve the pressure, and when they tried Sam Adu ran it back from halfway to the 22; Macc were dominating the exchanges and when the ball came out to the right it looked like Adu was over but he was stopped on the line. It was a rapid recycle but McGuigan batted the ball away. Again the referee produced a card, and again it could have been a penalty try. The ball was shifted left and Macclesfield had a man over but the last pass was put down, and it was yet another score gone begging.

At the resulting scrum Rossendale destroyed the Macclesfield 8, the Referee played advantage, and when it came to nothing Rossendale scrummaged again, after pushing Macc back they whipped the ball out, and although the visitors were now without a left wing, Zac Stephens joined the line with space in front of him; the rapid Kiwi had no problem rounding the last defender running it in from 70 metres, Allen finished it off with a personal tally of 25 points and a 36 – 60 score-line.

Rossendale had taken all of their chances scoring 8 tries, whereas Macclesfield had not converted several of theirs, and scored 6 tries; but the scoreboard doesn’t lie, there was a 24-point difference. The big difference was in the quality of some of the players; obviously McGuigan and Solomona are of a different class, but the rest of their squad is of a high quality with some stand-out players in: Allen, Marki, Murray, Tuia, and Stephens, with Matt Lamprey to come back into the side. The Club is determined to play rugby in National 2, and stay there; as such Rossendale’s Commercial Director must be applauded for attracting sponsors to fund such an ambition, as it must have required a considerable playing budget to put the squad together.

The players and coaches will naturally be disappointed in shipping 60 points, but there were probably too many changes in the team to be more successful. Tackling at times was an issue, but against such quality players there are always going to be some that don’t stick. The result will not affect Macclesfield’s resolve in any way. With their full squad to pick from Head Coach Darren Lamon knows that they can be competitive in the big games to come: “The boys have a bit of a break now, but we will then put our plan together for the next block of 7 league games that will see the year out”. It starts with Leek away, but all focus will be on Blackburn at home on the 11th November, a must win if Macclesfield is to stay in the race for the league.

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