A CURATE’S MINI-EGG AWAY AT LEEK

Leek 11 – Macclesfield 24

By David Wilkinson

 

While Leek’s pitch looked to be in good condition, it was a dank drizzly day that met the Macclesfield faithful at the home of the Moorlanders’. This would be the first ever league fixture between the two clubs; Leek had won promotion in consecutive seasons and were looking far from out of place in the fifth tier. Macclesfield put Leek under pressure right from the kick-off; they attacked from a lineout on the right and made good metres from forward drives, but when the ball came back to the right an attacking chip went dead. It was temporary relief for Leek as Macc were soon back on the attack with a trademark charge from Brendan Berry. But the MOTM back-row forward’s acceleration took him away from any support, with the home team winning a turnover and clearing the danger from the penalty. Leek attacked from the lineout and when they were stopped in midfield the Referee adjudged that the second man in had tackled high, it seemed to be a very harsh decision. Centre Will Midwinter slotted the penalty from 42 metres to take an early lead after 6 minutes.

Macclesfield attacked from the restart, setting up a rolling-maul from the lineout, but when a pod of three broke off, the front player lost his bind and Macc were penalised again. It looked like Ground-Hog-Days, when Leek attacked from the lineout with Macclesfield being penalised in the midfield again on 42 metres, but this time Midwinter’s kick slid past the upright.

Early exchanges as Leek prepare to kick

After a series of bouts of tactical kicking, Leek produced a protracted period of possession, but the Macclesfield defence pushed them back at each phase; when Macclesfield regained the ball Charlie Attis kicked deep to the corner. In their eagerness to win possession back on 5 metres, there was contact in the air at the lineout and Macclesfield were penalised again. However at the next lineout Rhys Davies stole the ball and the visitors put it quickly through the hands, only for the last pass to slide forward. At the next breakdown Macclesfield again were penalised, they just couldn’t get their hands on the ball and frustration was creeping in, along with the Referee’s now limited patience. Three good phases from Leek and their 9 was pushed in the back, resulting in Macclesfield losing Samir Tahraoui to the bin. It was a straight forward kick for a 6-point lead after 25 minutes played.

Charlie Attis sets up the attack

Macclesfield were defending again and after several phases Josh DeGroot went for a big tackle, but the player dipped, and whilst head contact was made the Referee was lenient. The Leek kicker was greedy with the penalty, with the ball going dead in the left corner. Macclesfield won a free-kick from the scrum and quickly ran the ball out, and then went through the phases, but Danny Martin’s chip ahead, like the one in the opening minutes also went dead. Leek could not escape though, the pressure at the ensuing scrum made for a rushed clearance, and Macc were now camped in the red-zone. They were patient following the lineout and at the third phase Brendan Berry joined the line on an acute angle that took him over the whitewash; Harry Oliver finished it off for the full 7 points.

Tom Jennings breaks out of defence

Tom Jennings caught the restart and made good ground before the ball was spun out again, Harry Oliver beat three players, which almost resulted in a try for Sam Adu. Macclesfield were now camped deep in the red-zone, with Leek holding on, even though they were to give away three penalties, they escaped with the score remaining at 6 – 7 after the first half was concluded.

Harry Oliver scorches around the last defender for the 2nd try

It had been a scrappy half, where Macclesfield had been starved of possession, mainly through their own fault, giving away a steady stream of penalties. However in the few periods that they had had the ball they demonstrated their strengths going forward. Leek would hand the ball over to Macclesfield at the restart, with a scrum on the 22. One phase and the ball was fired out to the backs for a set play; Terence Babarinsa went on a dummy scissors, with Attis slipping a no-look pass on the inside to Harry Oliver at pace, on the angle. The move created sufficient space for Harry to take him between the Centres and past the cover to score the full seven points, 6 – 14.

Leek would have another extended period of possession but Macclesfield’s defence forced them back into their 22, where they were forced to kick, Macc ran it back through fast hands for Jennings to make good ground on the right. Leek would get hold of the ball again, but again the blue tide pushed them back. When the ball came out to the right Noah Reeney managed to beat 3 Macc defenders taking the ball to halfway, after two phases the backs were back on the ball, the Macc line was breached for the first time and a clever off-load sent Jack Newton-Taylor in, unopposed, 11 – 14.

John O’Donnell attacks from deep

After a sequence of back and forth kicking, John O’Donnell decided to run it back, cruising around the defence on the left before passing back inside to Harry Oliver, but Macclesfield gave up the ball and were then penalised. Scrappy play continued with the Referee having words with the Leek Captain for the third time, for off-the-ball shenanigans, which cost him a penalty. With 25 minutes left to play Tom Morton swapped with Charlie Attis, a niggling injury had kept him out for 6 games.

Tom Burden goes over for the third

At the next lineout play, it looked like a move may be on, Morton ran flat flipping the ball back inside for Babarinsa on the crash-ball, who made it to the line but lost the ball forward in the grounding. But the Referee had been playing advantage, and from the 5 metre penalty lineout the forwards made no mistake with their catch-and-drive, with Tom Burden touching down, 11 – 19.

Dan Percival goes over for the bonus point try, and his first in two seasons

It was nip-and-tuck for 10 minutes, until Harry Harding went on the kind of charge that the Macclesfield faithful love to see, Harry had replaced Josh DeGroot at halftime along with Dan Percival. The ball was spun out to Sam Adu who took it to within a few metres, where the ball was quickly recycled for Percival to dive over, for his first try in two seasons; it was a try bonus-point.

Macclesfield’s defensive line was solid all afternoon

Leek would have the best of the rest, but it didn’t result in a score, Macclesfield’s defence was resolute in its task with the Moorlanders constantly being forced backwards in possession. It had been an ugly win, but an important 5 points. It was difficult to understand why there had been so many penalties in the first half, perhaps frustration, and trying too hard to gain possession, or just one of those days when things didn’t go right. I’m sure it will be a big topic at Tuesday night’s training session, as that many infringements against Blackburn would spell disaster.

Smiles rather than jubilations

Head Coach Darren Lamon was as dumfounded as everyone else: “It was a step backwards, some very strange decisions by some of the players. Leek were a very gritty team, and it was probably there cup final. We didn’t do ourselves any favours with all those penalties, and probably got on the wrong side of the referee; thankfully, scoring just before halftime and strait afterwards gave us a bit of a springboard for a smash-and-grab, and the 5 points. Sadly Josh DeGroot is out with a sprung rib and Sam Brosters is out after fracturing his elbow with the 2s, on the positive side we should have two players back from injury for contention”.

It will be a big day at Priory Park on Saturday, as the boys try and take away Blackburn’s unbeaten record this season; kick-off is 3.00pm.

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